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It is in the capital city of Thimphu that one hears most loudly the noises of modernity and furor of democracy.

If life still seems calm and peaceful, tinged by mystery and charm, animated by prayer wheels and people in traditional outfits, this calm seems to be experiencing its final years. This old-fashioned existence often weighs heavily on the Bhutanese, and particularly women, who try to escape the restrictions of family but also new kinds of sexism. Their emancipation sometimes passes by a crazed consumerism that can quickly be satisfied on the main street of Norzi Lam but in a way, they wish to copy a model that doesn’t resemble them.

And as soon as they return to their village, they become traditional women once again.

“There are many women who own French handbags but when they return to the village, they immediately set about doing village work”

In Histoires en couleurs (Stories in color) , Kunzang Choden pays homage to the women of her country by taking inspiration from local rural life and her own experiences. She offers a gallery of portraits that bear witness to changes in the lives of Bhutanese women. We meet an illiterate woman condemned to do unpleasant jobs who fades away prematurely since she is sacrificing herself for her children or a peasant woman who carts manure and is metamorphosized as soon as she arrives in the city and treats herself to a piercing. Or even an abandoned mother, victim of a morbid desire to see her son become a civil servant. All these women fight to take their destiny in their own hands and share a taste for dreaming and escape, but at what price?

Today the new generation risks passing directly from an oral culture to a civilization of images, from prayer beads to cellphones.

Conserving their identity has become a major challenge in a society whose values of “Happiness” have become a unique model in the world.

“Few people look backwards and remind themselves where they came from. They forget.”

“We cannot only understand Bhutan through the Gross National Happiness and Shangri-La. We are human beings and we also have problems.”

“On ne comprend pas le Bhoutan seulement avec le Bonheur National et Shangri-La. Nous sommes des êtres humains et nous avons aussi des problèmes”

- Le Cercle du Karma (The Karma Circle), Kunzang Choden, Actes Sud

Tsomo, a young Bhutanese woman, sets off on a solitary voyage that becomes a lifetime journey. She goes off to seek her inner strength through different adventures that will enliven her route.

 

- Le singe boiteux : Contes et légendes du Bhoutan (The lame monkey: Tales and legends of Bhutan), Kunzang Choden, Olizane Editions

A collection of thirty-eight tales and legends about the environment, the transmigration of people and reincarnation, that come from Bhutan’s oral tradition.

 

- Histoires en couleurs (Stories in color), Kunzang Choden, Actes Sud

A collection of thirteen short stories around the lives of Bhutanese women. We learn about the problems these women face everyday, between tradition and modernity.

 

- Bhoutan, terre de sérénité (Bhutan, land of serenity), Matthieu Ricard, Editions de la Martinière

Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk, lived in Bhutan for 8 years. Through his photos and accounts, we find out about his passionate encounters and experiences.

- Voyageurs et Magiciens (Voyagers and Magicians), Khyentse Norbu

Dondup leaves Bhutan for the United States. There, he meets a monk who tells him the story of a man who also wanted to change his life at any price.

 

- Dakini, Dechen Roder

Detective Kinley investigates the disappearance of a Buddhist nun. He forms a tie with Choden, the principal suspect, a woman who the villagers consider to be a demon.

STORIES IN COLOR

TO KNOW MORE :

WOMEN BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

Une quête de la vérité sur la route des larmes

 

C'est à l’hôtel Bonaventure de Montréal qu'ont eu lieu les premières auditions de la commission d’enquête. Fanny Wylde retrouve Cheryl, de la communauté Mohawk, sidérée par le désintérêt de la police pour la recherche de sa sœur après le signalement de sa disparition. Carleen, mère de trois enfants, sera retrouvée par hasard par un chasseur, sept semaines plus tard, à deux kilomètres de chez elle. Morte. Elle s'est suicidée. Cheryl s’interroge encore sur une forme de racisme, l’apathie politique et l’indifférence des médias qui font passer ces crimes pour de simple faits divers. Pour Cheryl et pour toutes les autres familles de victimes, la commission d’enquête offre une lueur d’espoir et de justice.

BUMTHANG: THE VALLEY OF WITCHES

Serene, peaceful, moving at a standstill, Bumthang landscapes resemble naïve paintings. Sculpted wood windows decorate houses painted in colorful motifs. Women weave under a canopy while men harvest rice alongside their yaks at the foot of snow-capped mountains. Far away, a defrocked lama implores the sky for rain. An image of everyday life. But this region is also known for its troubling, folk superstitions. The fires one may pass at night on the road represent the witches that attack OR rape men. These women are considered to be great priestesses who are part-angel and part-demon. These popular beliefs are still anchored in the imaginations of its inhabitants in 2018, thus giving it the local name of “valley of the ghosts”.

“The inhabitants of Bumthang are called ghosts”

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THE FIRST FEMALE WRITER

Kunzang Choden was born in 1952, the year of the Dragon. At the time, there were only two or three people who knew how to read in each village and schools were rare. Sent to India to study even though she didn’t speak a word of English, she spent long moments alone, telling herself stories in her maternel dialect. After returning to her country she began writing to tell the oral tradition but also tell about the condition of women who play a central role in this ritualistic society with fairly liberal customs. In 2005, she was the first Bhutanese woman to publish a novel in English: Le Cercle du Karma. When she isn’t writing, she tries to awaken children’s interest in reading. She just opened a school in her childhood village of Bhumthang and leads reading and writing workshops.

“Few people in Bhutan read. (…) Until 50 years ago, there weren’t any schools.”

In Bhutan, minutes last hours and hours last days. It’s important to know how to wait. This “confetti” kingdom between India and China lives to another rhythm: that of the seasons, the moon, religious rituals and popular beliefs that animate the everyday life of its inhabitants. Long detached from the rest of the world, in part due to its geography and history, the country has launched itself in a race to catch up its backward ways in the last few decades and pass from an almost feudal regime to a parliamentary monarchy.

At the same time, Bhutan has become a laboratory to experiment with the four pillars of Gross National Happiness directly inspired by Buddhism. But this is a society in full transition. The originally rural population has become more urban and discovered the pangs of globalization. Influenced by the outside world, the Bhutanese realize that all is not a bed of roses. Women especially, are torn between the need to free themselves from a feudal past and the necessity to remain the gardians of tradition.

Today, Himalayan women’s voices are being heard and are a slight blemish on the image of this blissful country.

“We may have the logo and label ‘Buddhists’ and ‘compassion’. But in real life, there is very little compassion and Buddhism.”

A FEMINIST HIMALAYAN VOICE

OF ITS HABITANTS CONSIDER THEMSELVES "HAPPY"

OF ITS INHABITANTS LIVE BELOW THE POVERTY LINE

THE DAILY TAX TO TRAVEL TO BHUTAN IS

 250 USD/DAY/PERSON

TOURISTS

VISITED BHUTAN

TOURISTS VISITED THE COUNTRY

IN 1974,

IN 2013,

POPULATION

OF BHUTAN:

BHUTAN BECOME AN AUTONOMOUS COUNTRY WITHIN THE BRITISH EMPIRE.

BHUTAN BECOME A MEMBER OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE CONCEPT OF GROSS NATIONAL HAPINESS IS LAUNCHED BY KING JIGME SINGYZ WANGCHUK

THE GOVERNMENT AUTORIZES SATELLITE TELEVISION AND ACCESS TO INTERNET

THE FIRST LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS ARE HELD.

THE COUNTRY WRITES ITS FIRST DEMOCRATIC CONSTITUTION

OF THE BHUTAN TERRITORY

IS COVERED BY FOREST

THE ANNUAL REVENUE PER INHABITANT IS UNDER

DOLLARDS (1460 euros)

%

%

%

THE PORTRAIT

THE PORTRAIT

WOMEN BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

WOMEN BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

THE VALLEY OF WITCHES

THE VALLEY OF WITCHES

STORIES IN COLOR

STORIES IN COLOR

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KUNZANG      CHODEN

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TITRE-symbole-quebec

KUNZANG      CHODEN

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TALES IN COLOUR

CRÉDITS

THE VALLEY OF THE WITCHES

CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

TO KNOW MORE

THE PORTRAIT

THE SUBJECT

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