ICT’s Rowell Fund rewards Tibetan innovators

A project to educate Tibetans about endangered animals, an initiative to promote and cultivate Tibetan contemporary art, and individual Tibetan film-makers and photographers have all been granted awards from ICT’s Rowell Fund, to encourage and support the work of Tibetans communicating issues of importance to their community to a broader Tibetan or international audience.

The Rowell Fund for Tibet was established to honor Galen and Barbara Rowell’s legacy for Tibetans by providing small grants to Tibetans in the language and visual arts. More than 50 Tibetans applied for the grants this year, and 11 projects will be funded, totaling nearly $50,000 – including the production of a set of books about the imprisoned religious teacher Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, an art “refuge” for Tibetan children who have escaped from Tibet, and documentation of stories of Tibetan elders.

Mountaineer and author David Breashears, who is on the Advisory Board of the Rowell Fund for Tibet, said: “These awards highlight the broad range and diversity of work being undertaken by Tibetans to promote and develop their cultural heritage. This vital work is a worthy tribute to Galen and Barbara’s passion and commitment to the Tibetan cause.”

Galen Rowell was the Co-chair of ICT’s Board of Advisors and a longtime friend of Tibet. Galen and his wife Barbara produced the book My Tibet, with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and introduced Tibet to countless people around the world. Through photographs and writing they documented and brought attention to many threatened ecosystems and cultures.

John Ackerly, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “We believe that supporting ambitious and talented Tibetans nurtures innovation from diverse parts of the Tibetan community. Our grants should not only go to well-run Tibetan organizations, but also to individuals who often don’t have access to resources as organizations do. The Rowell Fund is part of a change at ICT towards focusing more on empowering Tibetans and building a civil society within Tibet and in exile.”

Few applications for this year’s awards were received from Tibet, but many of the grantees selected are carrying out some or all of their work in Tibet. Some requested not to be named.

The Rowell Fund projects were selected by the RFT Advisory Board, consisting of the consisting of the following friends and family of Galen and Barbara Rowell: John Ackerly, Conrad Anker, Justin Black, David Breashears, Jimmy Chin, Bob and Beth Cushman, John Jancik and Terri Baker, Bob Palais, Tony Rowell, Nicole Rowell Ryan and Ray Ryan. Galen & Barbara were killed in a plane crash on August 11, 2002, near their home in Bishop, California.

The Rowell Fund is a program managed by the International Campaign for Tibet.

The successful applicants to the 2004 Rowell Fund include the following:

  • Phukron Karpo Shidhye Sungkyob Association, Dolma Ling nunnery, India: A proposal for the publication of a series of three books in Tibetan about the imprisoned religious leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, including his biography and selected articles by Chinese scholars about his case.
  • Art Refuge, Ms. Dolma Tsering, India: Art program for refugee children in Dharamsala and Kathmandu, staffed entirely by Tibetans, and created to provide children with support through this time of transition as newly arrived refugees, many of whom are orphans in exile.
  • Tibet Justice Center, Tashi Tsering, USA: Initiatives on sustainable development in Tibet including: a Tibet Justice Training Program for young Tibetans, development of partnerships with Chinese and other researchers/activists, a complete study on effects of nature reserve parks on Tibetan pastoral nomads, development of a public education presentation on the history of Tibetan’s relation with the environment and a summary of the modern sustainability movement for Tibetan schools in exile.
  • The Tibet Museum, Dorjee Thinley, India: Funds will be used for the development and installation of software to organize an archival system for its photograph collection, in order to preserve decaying photographs and optimize searching capability. Established in 1998 in Dharamsala, the museum has a collection of over 20,000 photographs, 5,000 slides and 15,000 negatives of images of Tibet.
  • Ngawang Choephel Productions, USA: Funding for the continued production of the film, Through the Hollow Bamboo: Tibet in Song, a documentary on traditional Tibetan music including performances from within Tibet, Losar celebrations in exile and interviews with noted Tibet experts such as Robert Thurman. Ngawang Choephel, a musicologist and musician, served 6 years of an 18-year prison sentence for filming in Tibet but never lost the determination to complete his film.
  • Tesi Environmental Awareness Movement, Ms. Tsering Yangkey: A campaign Against Endangered Species Trade in Tibetan communities, particularly of shatoosh (Tibetan antelope) wool. The project aims to curtail Tibetan participation in wildlife smuggling through educational campaigning and workshops.
  • Wildlife Trust of India, Ashok Kumar, India: An education campaign in Tibetan exile communities to curtail the illegal wildlife trade, through videos, efforts with TGIE, school programs and symposia. The Wildlife Trust of India will coordinate efforts with Tesi.
  • Losang Gyatso, Gonkar Gyatso and Karma Phuntsok, US, UK and Australia: A grouping of three Tibetan contemporary artists to promote the awareness and recognition of contemporary art being created by Tibetans both inside and outside Tibet. The three artists involved are probably the most renowned, talented and successful modern artists in exile.
  • Tenzin Dorjee, India: The only professional Tibetan photographer in exile, Tenzin has been awarded funds for a photo project documenting Tibetans in exile in India and the US in order to depict the profound changes that have altered the lives of Tibetans.
  • Thupten Tsering, USA: Filming testimonies of Tibetan elders in order to preserve stories about Tibet’s past and contribute to the understanding of a community in exile.
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