Welcome to Kyinzom’s Corner!
I dedicate my first post to Tibetan women and how proud (and fashionable) we feel when we wear our chupa.
Tibetan women are hardworking, strong and practical. This at least was my perception of my mother, who had to drop out of school at 14 and cook for the family whilst my grandmother went to work on the farm. They have been living in Bylakuppe, the largest Tibetan refugee settlement in India, for 52 years.
Did my mother have time for fashion and vanity in her life? Of course not – there were far more basic necessities to worry about. But thankfully the chupa, our traditional dress, is both beautiful and versatile. We can wear chupas in various colours and fabrics with matching wonjus (blouses). We can dress up in a chupa or dress down. My mother went for the latter, as was dictated by a life mostly spent in hard physical labour.
I, on the other hand, have always worn chupa to dress myself up. Such as on Losar (Tibetan New Year) and on His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Birthday, or while visiting lamas and attending weddings. So the excitement of these special occasions was associated with wearing a chupa.
As I grew older, I began to find a deeper meaning in wearing our traditional dress. As a Tibetan, it helps define who I am. And for a Tibetan, an expression of one’s identity is a strong political statement. Of course, I have to admit my love for the dress for its sheer elegance too. I think Tibetan women look most beautiful in our chupas.
So when I decided to take my Lhakar pledge a month ago, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Wearing a chupa every Wednesday (the soul day of His Holiness the Dalai Lama) seemed the most natural thing to do, and join the Tibetans inside Tibet in their spirit of resistance.
So here are some of my Lhakar moments in Sydney – feeling proud and fashionable in front of the Harbour Bridge on my way to a concert at Opera House, waiting for my train home and doing my grocery shopping.
*Lhakar is a homegrown people’s movement that has emerged in Tibet. In spite of China’s intensified crackdown, Tibetans have embraced the power of strategic nonviolent resistance. Every Wednesday, a growing number of Tibetans are making special effort to wear traditional clothes, speak Tibetan, eat in Tibetan restaurants and buy from Tibetan-owned businesses. They channel their spirit of resistance into social, cultural and economic activities that are self-constructive (promoting Tibetan language, culture and identity) and non-cooperative (refusing to support Chinese institutions and businesses). Though humble in scale, these noncooperation tactics hark back to the Indian boycott of British textile at a turning point in the Indian freedom struggle.
The Tibetan word “Lhakar” translates literally as “White Wednesday,” as Wednesday is considered special by Tibetans because it is the Dalai Lama’s soul day. (From lhakar.org)