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  • 09 Oct, 2024
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I want people to appreciate and celebrate our rich culture: Ngoshi Choedon on her love for art and culture

Meet a talented Tibetan Paper Collage Artist and illustrator who has embarked on a creative journey rooted in her rich cultural heritage. Though not formally trained in art, she has discovered her passion and purpose through her unique artistic expressions. Her art serves as a bridge between her Tibetan heritage and the world, allowing her to celebrate and preserve the beauty of Tibetan culture. In this interview, she shares her inspiring journey, the significance of her work, and her aspirations for the future. 

1. Tell us about your experience as an artist and illustrator. How did you get started, and what inspired you to pursue this profession?

I have liked drawing since I was a kid, I think it’s something I bought with me in my past life. Yet I didn’t do art or go to any art school. I studied MBA with the hope of having a stable and secure job later on. During my MBA days and my friend Neeva, I used to make greeting cards and sell them in our girl's hostel. Though we were not making much money we enjoyed the process and having something of our own. After my MBA, I was not happy with the job I had and I realized I needed to pause and think about what I wanted to do with my life. So I joined an NGO called Initiatives of Change and volunteered there for two years. At that time I realized how much art is appreciated by the people and we can do so much using art like making art to spread social messages and raising funds to do programs. I then went back into making art again and after two years, Covid hit back home in Dharamsala, I was going through Pinterest and found beautiful photos of Tibetans wearing Tibetan traditional costumes and jewelry back in Tibet which inspired me to put those into paper collage art.

My experience as an artist and illustrator has not been easy, there is always self-doubt creeping in questioning if is it good enough. Since I had not studied art and was self-taught, there was always a wave of doubt coming in and out, will I be able to make it or not till the end? Yet the process has taught me to trust myself and enjoy it while I can as you never know what the future holds. You can contact her on Instagram here.

2. How do your Tibetan heritage and culture inspire your art? Are there any particular themes, symbols, or traditions that you frequently incorporate into your work?

I love the richness of our cultural costumes and jewelry and most of my work is inspired by them.

3. Could you share a memorable project or piece of artwork that you've worked on and explain its significance to you?

I have made an illustration of a girl carrying a lamb and titled it ‘If I Were in Tibet’. I would say this piece of artwork is close to my heart because while creating that piece I was imagining what I would have been if I were born in Tibet. As my dad’s father is from Amdo Golog and my grandfather was a nomad. I assumed I would have been someone who loved and embraced animals, unlike the person I am now who is scared of animals. So that piece in a way was to connect with the other side of myself.

4. Can you explain the process of expressive arts therapy?

Expressive arts therapy is a distinct therapy practice that uses various expressive modalities such as visual art, movement, drama, play, psychodrama, sculpting, sand play therapy, and more in the context of Psychotherapy. The client is not required to have artistic ability to use or benefit from EXA therapy.

Being an artistic person who loves art but also wants to work in the mental health area because of my mental health struggle, I thought why not combine these two areas that I am interested in and do something? That made me study art therapy. 

5. What do you want the audience to take away from your work, and how do you want it to affect them? Tibetans in particular.

I want people to appreciate and celebrate our rich culture. We hardly see those costumes worn around us daily So, I want to just remind them that this is ours and not to forget them. One thing that I learned recently is that Sometimes, what we can achieve by celebrating is something we can’t resist. We as Tibetans are resisting a lot of things- resisting the occupation of China, resisting human rights violations, resisting China’s Colonial boarding schools in Tibet, and so on. At the same time, I believe it is equally important to celebrate our culture, our traditions, our ancestral wisdom, and so on.

6. Paper collage is a unique and intricate medium. Can you share some insights into your creative process? How do you select the images and materials for your collages, and what challenges or joys do you find in working with paper as your primary medium?

I used to love making scrapbooks since as a kid so I was always into cutting and pasting things. I am also a huge fan of collecting pretty trash, I see beauty in them so it's hard to let it go. Which made me collect them and use them. There is this joy of using those pretty trash as you are giving them life but at the same time, there is a feeling of wanting to hold on to it as it's rare and unique.

These days I use mostly handmade papers and try to up-cycle as much trash as I could. I love paper as they are bio-degradable and can be recycled, in a way I am a little less guilty about creating more waste on the earth.

7. Can you share a particularly rewarding experience related to your art, such as an exhibition or collaboration, that stands out in your career?

I had the chance to collaborate with HP State Handicrafts and Hand Loom Corporation Limited. and had the chance to explore the Himachali costume which developed into a special series of artworks, later supplied to the prestigious Rashtrapati Niwas, Mashobra.

Three of the artworks are placed inside the Hon'ble President of India's private room, while two others are placed in the dining room which is open to public viewing.

I think it is quite a big deal having my artwork in Hon’ble The President of India’s holiday resort. It was something I had not imagined happening and I am humbled by the opportunity.

8. In what ways do you see your work evolving in the future, and what goals do you have for your artistic career as a Tibetan Paper Collage Artist and illustrator?

As of now, I am into learning more about my cultural customs and jewelry because I honestly think I don’t know much and my art is mostly about it, I feel the responsibility to know about it. I think my love for art and artistic expression has brought me closer to my culture.  

I wish to scale up my work, work on exclusive pieces, and have my exhibition one day.