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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Method Lab opens 'A Tibetan Pilgrimage' photo exhibit

August 12, 2008

'A Tibetan Pilgrimage' captures images of an ancient culture
struggling to survive
Anna Reguero, Staff writer
Democrat and Chronicle
August 10, 2008

A new photo exhibit by Rochester artist Mary Ferrigno manages to find
grace and color laced throughout Tibetan culture while capturing a
timely political struggle.

The photos in "A Tibetan Pilgrimage" are from her journey to India,
Nepal and Tibet. Fueled by an interest in human rights and Tibetan
Buddhism, Ferrigno had first traveled to a Tibetan refuge in northern
India in 2003 to teach English. When she set out to continue her trip
through Nepal and China, droves of people brought letters to her
door, asking her to take them to families they hadn't seen or been in
contact with for years. Ferrigno couldn't help but to oblige.

"It led us to places we never would have found," she says. One of
those letters she delivered was to the couple in Paulden's Family.

In that unassuming photograph, a thin and wrinkled couple sit on a
simply constructed couch in a small house. But what surrounds them is
much more telling. The house, a dark space without the comfort of
electricity, is decorated only with a few remains from Tibetan life —
a couple of pieces of sculpture against the side wall. The house
otherwise remains empty. These people look stripped of their identity.

The house, says Ferrigno, is on a plot of land given to them by the
Chinese government, which offered the couple money to stay there. It
was an attempt to make these indigenous and nomadic people stay under
Chinese rule, something Tibetans and human rights organizations have
been fighting against due to the lack of freedom the Tibetans are
given to propagate their beliefs and traditions. Many have sought
refuge in India and Nepal. The couple took the offer to stay because
they were too old to continue farming. Their children had already fled.

In the old woman's hands is a stick with a rotating cylinder on top,
called a prayer wheel because it has written prayers inside.

"The whole time we were there, it didn't stop," Ferrigno says about
the stick the woman was spinning. "It was constant." Perhaps the
prayer was for Ferrigno's arrival, bearing communication from the
separated family.

While capturing the changing lives of Tibetans, Ferrigno also looked
into the country's core where Tibetan culture is thriving. Bright
colored flags flap in every direction over a serene, green landscape,
sending prayers over the land. Monks overlook temples being rebuilt,
watching their culture being restored. Night prayers, both daily and
celebratory, take place over a sea of butter lamps that glimmer in
the darkness. A brave man hangs off to the side of a galloping pony
to grab a white flag on the ground in a traditional trick riding
contest, and gets back up without falling.

Bold yellows, blues, reds and greens are everywhere, from the flags
to paint on monasteries and even decorations around the horse.

The exhibit is being hosted at the Method Lab on South Avenue. While
the intent of her photos was not political, co-founder David
Henderson says he chose to display her photos because of current
events. The world has its eyes on China because of the Olympics this month.

"It would heighten the awareness of what this community in these
photos is going through," he says. "It was important to do it this month."
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