OLD HIMALAYAN EXHIBITIONS
MASQUES & ARTS TRIBAUX himalayens
Du vendredi 30 novembre au lundi 31 décembre 2007
GALERIE LE TOIT DU MONDE
à la Mairie du 6e -Salon du Vieux Colombier-
Art chamanique népalais
Ghurra du Népal
PHOTO CREDIT OF SANZA ARTS PREMIERS
Tambour dhyangro de chaman (shaman) Jhankri
Dagues rituelles (phurbu) & Poignées de tambour (dhyangro)
Statuaire et masques
PHOTO CREDIT SANZA ARTS PREMIERS
CHOD. IL SACRIFICIO DI SE’
There are still today, right in the heart of the Himalayas, a few rare practitioners of Bön – the ancient pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet – who undertake a long ritual pilgrimage through the “power places” of the Dolpo region. Sacred sites inhabited by mountain deities and water spirits. Wild places infested by demons and dangerous ghosts. In an universe perceived as a constant and delicate interaction between human beings and the invisible forces that inhabit the cosmos, the main purpose of the pilgrimage is to placate local spirits, thereby repairing any cracks that might have appeared in the relationship between these two worlds.
The journey is often undertaken as a means of warding off dangerous epidemics, a peculiar form of exorcism or therapeutic procedure to fight specific illnesses inflicted by supernatural beings. As the pilgrimage unfolds, the practitioners, having attracted the spirits attention with wildly provocative acts, then evoke their presence by playing magical musical instruments: trumpets made from human femurs (kangling) and hourglass-shaped drums (damaru) in which the bins are actually human skulls. According to Tibetan liturgical tradition, these drums are attributed with having particular evocative powers, especially when it comes to spirits connected to the funerary dymension or invisible beings belonging to the “wrathful” pantheon.
The central focus of the pilgrimage is the performance of a meditation ritual of self-sacrifice called “chöd” (lit. “cutting through”). The officiant first invites a whole host of invisible beings of various type and different hierarchical status to gather, and then visualizes his own body being totally dismembered by a female divinity of wisdom (dakini). As soon as the various body parts have been detached, they are thrown into a huge cauldron and once properly cooked, they are transformed into pure substances and a “nectar of immortality”, so that they can be offered to invited guests during a special ceremonial banquet.
Beyond being merely a sacrificial offering to local spirits, the chöd reveals profound philosophical meanings connected to the notion of universal compassion (bodhicitta). In that sense, the sacrifice is a rare opportunity to benefit invisible living beings, still imprisoned in the samsara (the never ending cycle of births and deaths), by providing them with spiritual nourishment.
In an even deeper sense, the ceremony, by the total offering of oneself to invisible guests, enables the practitioner to radically cut off his attachment to his physical body and to overcome his identification with his own illusory Ego: the intangible enemies of any true spiritual progress.
Texts, excepts from the field-work diary of the author and pictures describe this archaic ritual. A video-CD enriches the work. This contains a Super8 film of the author, the song of the chöd singed by the monks of the Triten Norbutse monastery, in Nepal, and an original artistic contribution of the Italian singer Franco Battiato.
KATHMANDU LECONS DE TENEBRES .
An art book devoted to the abyssal Himalayan metropolis of Kathmandu. Fragments from the travel note book, encounters, poems, tales, visions, accompanied by a rare selection of black and white photographs.
The work, printed in Bangkok in 2009, is published in a numbered limited edition of 108 copies, each enriched by a personal artwork of the author.
The same work is also available in a commercial edition, published and distributed by One Edition, a Thai publisher specialised in contemporary Asian literature.
THE ECSTATIC BODY. NOTES ON SHAMANISM AND CORPOREITY IN THE HIMALAYAS.
“The shaman who entertains the gods by dancing and music, is the same man who entertains the audience through the more performative aspects of the séance. Here, it is ordinary people who exploit the situation, coming to attend a performance that, in primis, has been organised for the gods.
SHAMANISM SOLITUDES. ECSTASY, MADNESS AND SPIRIT POSSESSION IN THE NEPAL HIMALAYAS.
An itinerary – only apparently circular – furrows the universe of Kulunge Râi shamanism in Nepal. A nomadic religion, generated within the space of a double geography that weaves vivid visionary foreshortenings into the flat weft of reality.
An extraordinary journey through the principal places composing the universe of shamanic reality: the “call” by the spirits of the wood. The dreams and initiatic visions; the vocational sickness and flight into the forest – mandatory steps on the path to obtaining powers; the praxis of healing and funerary rituals, centred on the experience of a “magic journey” accomplished by crossing different regions of the cosmos; the body’s function and corporeity within the choreutic-musical world of shamanism: a body acting as temple and simulacrum for a divine epiphany. As a frontier between worlds. A vocal and sonorous body capable of starting up the great shamanic machine.
THE ANCESTRAL FOREST. MEMORY, SPACE AND RITUAL AMONG THE KULUNGE RAI OF EASTERN NEPAL.
Lost among the high hills of eastern Nepal, which has meant centuries of cultural isolation, the Kulunge Rai ethnic group have tenaciously maintained their religious tradition ever since their ancient origins. Bearing witness to a far-off past of hunting and nomadic life, their myths and legends form a plot and scenario that comprise a multitude of invisible entities: the “hunter-spirits” and the “monkey spirits”, the undisputed sovereigns of the forest world; Laladum, the deity who resembles a little girl, the initiator of young shamans from the villages of the area; the Nagi, or ophidiomorphic-spirits, dwelling in the waters, the totem ancestors of the Kulunge Rai group; Molu, a mythical forefather, lost in the woods and transformed into a deity.
A fascinating journey through the oral memory, the sacred geography and religious imaginary of this people. An ideal itinerary that progressively abandons the inhabited world and enters the abysses of the mythical woodlands – the silent witnesses of the group’s ancient life style – only to lose itself in the thick of the immense forests that even today surround the settlements of the Kulunge Rai.
Starting from the cults of domestic deities, the research goes on to analyse the rituals that accompany the souls of the dead and the village farming cults, as a necessary step before dealing with the hunting cults and the hidden paths beaten by Kulunge Rai shamans.
RIDDUM. THE VOICE OF THE ANCESTORS.
“One day, the aged shaman Sancha Prasâd Râi told me the story of his people. The story that even today the elders of the Kulunge Râi tribe hand down orally from generation to generation, under the name of ‘riddum’.
This story starts a long, long time ago. It begins before all the objects that surround us were manifest in their infinite variety, and even before human beings appeared on the face of the Earth.
For the Kulunge Râi, the riddum is the sacred tale describing the origin of the cosmos, of nature and the living beings that populate it. Expounded using the formula of a specific ritual language, the riddum is narrated whenever an important religious ritual is celebrated. According to the Kulunge Râi, the ritual language of the riddum is the primordial language, the one that the ethnic group’s forefathers once used daily for communication. With every passing generation, it began to be forgotten. Many other different idioms arose and thus the primordial tongue of the riddum began its slow, but inexorable, eclipse. Among human beings, only a few continued to hand it down, in order to keep alive a dialogue with the ancestors who lived in mythical times, and with the gods of their own religious tradition”.
A singular performance, to which, besides the chance of direct witness of the epiphany of gods, spirits and demons, is added the no less stimulating possibility of witnessing human destinies suspended over an uncertain fate”.