Freeing horses

Free me ...

Several of you identified the image in the last “Big picture” as a horse. That is correct. Well done.

But Passang’s answer was the most accurate. He said that the image was a “Picture of the horse (lungta) on a faded prayer flag.”

The big picture is, quite literally, a painting of a horse on an old prayer flag. In fact, the prayer flag, with the lungta (or windhorse) printed in the middle, is clearly visible in the painting. To Karma Wangdi, the artist, that lungta, drawn within a square border, looked confined and trapped. So he set it free. That’s why he painted the white horse, emerging from the prayer flag, and galloping at full speed, to freedom.

Karma Wangdi, popularly known as Asha Karma, says that the aim of the lungta prayer flags is to release one’s good nature and positive energy so as to accumulate merit and fortune. But he feels that the lungta printed on the prayer flags are, themselves, confined within a square border. Worse still, Asha Karma laments that most of the prayer flags today are made from non-degradable polyester material that trap the lungta for decades, long after the prayer flags have done their work and have come down, littering the landscape.

So Asha Karma has been busy freeing the lungta from old, discarded prayer flags. He’s been doing that for the past 13 years, during which time he’s completed no less than 40 paintings depicting horses of in various shapes and sizes, all furiously galloping away to their freedom.

Free ... at last

And to help him on his mission, Asha Karma has trained dozens of young artists in his studio at VAST to also allegorically free horses from old prayer flags.

But he and his young volunteers have also literally freed countless lungtas – they’ve visited popular prayer flag sites (like Sangaygang and Dochula) to collect and properly dispose old, discarded prayer flags.

Passang should contact me to claim his prize, a copy of one of Asha Karma’s paintings. For the rest of you, I’ve uploaded some photos from Asha Karma’s “windhorse series” in the gallery.  Enjoy.

Zoom on zoom

Quick updates on my previous post:

  • I’ve uploaded some photographs in the gallery.
  • Most of the officials who were invited to the art festival never did show up …
  • But, many other visitors turned up, especially on the final evening …
  • And, the prime minister made an unscheduled and unannounced visit to the closing ceremony of the festival. I applaud our PM.

Zoom on garbage

Screaming for help

Are you an important government official? If so, did you receive an invitation to attend Young Zoom on Garbage, the art festival currently on at the Clock Tower Square? And if so, did you make it to the festival?

Chances are that you didn’t.

Young Zoom on Garbage is meant to be an innovative and powerful way of drawing much needed attention to a very serious problem. So the organizers sent out more than 200 invitations for yesterday’s opening function. But only a handful showed up: barely 10% of the invitees were able to attend the inaugural ceremonies.

That’s too bad.

The participants – about 60 children, mostly students, who, incidentally, took part in the project’s many activities during much of the last year – have put on quite a show. They have transformed the Clock Tower Square into an awesome display of Thimphu’s waste, as they caused discarded cardboard boxes, beer bottles, cement bags, newspapers, mobile voucher cards, prayer flags, cigarette boxes, computers, and heaps of plastic bottles, wrappers and bags to effortlessly morph into a video dome, a walk-in pinhole camera, a robot, a towering monster, giant raindrops, a plastic monument, a photo gallery, and an enormous hand clutching our vulnerable world.

At the Clock Tower Square, our garbage looks strangely attractive. But the message is not lost: we produce too much waste.

I congratulate VAST, the organizers of the event, for continuing to champion what their founder, Asha Karma, calls ABC on NGP (Advocacy Behavioral Change on National Garbage Problem).

And I congratulate TCC, for co-organizing the event, giving support and adding to the event’s success.

To register your support, and to make the festival a bigger success, visit the Clock Tower Square, especially if you are one of the 200 important invitees.

Our banner, featuring the “Walk the River” photo exhibition, is an open invitation to you, your family and your friends to zoom on garbage at the VAST art festival. The festival runs through Sunday.

Spring art exhibition

“Everything in life is watched and seen beyond the strength of the naked eye,” says Passang Tobgay describing his painting “Under the Watchful Eye”.

Passang, who graduated in traditional painting from the Institute for Zorig Chusum, is a member of VAST. He taught traditional painting before exploring modern art to communicate his ideas and emotions.

“Under the Watchful Eye” is currently on display at VAST’s Spring Art Exhibition. The exhibition, which is at the Tarayana Centre, runs through April.

Calling young artists

Asha Karma and his volunteers at VAST are offering a ten-day basic art course for students. The classes start tomorrow. But, so far, only five students have registered. And they need at least ten to make the classes viable.

The art course is a good idea. Most children enjoy working with their hands. They love to create: to draw, to paint and to build. But good instruction on art and craft is not easy to find.

The VAST course is packed with good instruction and healthy fun. Children will enjoy a range of activities from basic drawing, sketching and charcoal to collage, watercolor and still life. They’ll also get to do outdoor activities like rock climbing and cultural visits.

This is exactly the type of activity that our students say they want during their winter holidays. So if you have children, please consider enrolling them for the course. Otherwise tell your relatives and friends about this wonderful opportunity.

To register your child, or to sponsor a student, you can contact a VAST volunteer at 327248 or

Dragon Mania

There’s a festival going on at the Clock Tower Square. It’s an art festival. And it features the dragon, our county’s namesake. Young artists have gathered to create dragons of all types, sizes and colours. And our children are invited.

Take your children there. It’s warm and sunny outside. And the organizers have put together a range of activities to keep children and parents busy and interested. Naturally, there are plenty of dragons. Plus there are exhibitions, calligraphy, music, outdoor chess, street art, juggling, on-the-spot art classes, and rock climbing.

Rock climbing? Yes, rock climbing. The clock tower, it turns out, makes the perfect wall for children to try out vertical climbing.

Dragon Mania is organized by VAST, Voluntary Artist Studio, Thimphu. This festival, like all their activities, is carried out entirely by volunteers.

VAST is the brainchild of Karma Wangdi, popularly called “Asha”, one of Bhutan’s foremost social workers. Asha, himself an artist, left his government job in 1998 and set up VAST to promote art and social service among our youth. Why? Because while he, as a student, always had a qualified art teacher (his favourite was Mr Narendra Singh Gupta from Uganda), none of our schools today give art enough attention. Asha, by the way, studied in YHS from 1966 to 1976 – no prizes for guessing what I think is happening to our schools.

During the last 10 years, Asha and his team of exceptionally dedicated volunteers have organized art classes, camps, exhibitions, seminars, competitions and campaigns. In the process, they have influenced the lives of a thousand young Bhutanese. And more than a few adults.

So go to the Clock Tower Square. Support VAST. The festival runs through tomorrow.