Yearender | ARTS & Culture: The Fire Male Monkey Year saw development of art and culture in the country. Art exhibitions and some of the memorable art and literary festivals such as the Mountain Echoes brought together talented artists from both within and outside the country.

The year also saw some of the young and talented artists showcasing their artworks, expressing the changing perspective of the younger generation.

The year started with the launch of a comic book ‘GARPA: The Attendant’ by Pema Tshering who runs Thimphu Comics. The book is based on the legend of Garpa Lungi Khorlo, a man who had the power to travel at the speed of wind. Pema Tshering launched the book with an objective to bring back the culture of comics among the younger generations.

In the film industry, Karma Deki’s film Kushuthara – Pattern of Love, received 13 nominations at the 14th Bhutan National Film Festival 2015. It even won the Best International Narrative Feature Film Award at Laughlin International Film Festival.

A few independent Bhutanese films also made it to  other prominent international film festivals.

The National Museum of Bhutan in Paro held its 15th Special Exhibition on the Art of Clay Statue Sculpting. The exhibition featured rare statues of Guru Rinpoche and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and of many other enlightened Buddhist masters.

To celebrate the independence day of Bangladesh, a six-day art exhibition was held at the Voluntary Artists’ Studio in Thimphu (VAST). Led by one of Bangladesh’s connoisseurs of contemporary art, Rokeya Sultana, the exhibition showcased the art of five other female Bangladeshi artists from the University of Dhaka.

The 15th National Design Competition was held at the Royal Textile Academy (RTA) in Thimphu where 81 participants from all over the country exhibited their work. Around 75 kiras, 38 ghos and 26 embroidery pieces were displayed for the competition.

To help uplift the lives of people and also instil in young people a sense of responsibility towards their community, VAST held its fourth Rice Bank project at Zarbisa chiwog under Kabji gewog in Punakha.

To revive the ancient trail of the 14th century saint, Drukpa Kunley, Her Majesty the Queen Mother Tshering Pem Wangchuck and Her Royal Highness Princess Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck trekked for four hours from Talogang to Siluna in Punakha. The 21km trail has many sacred sites (nyes) related to Drukpa Kunley. The route is now cleared and converted into a trekking trail.

Gramophone recordings during the time of the Third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck was also launched. The Music of Bhutan Research Centre (MBRC) made the discovery in the spring of 2014. MBRC obtained a copy of one of the records, identified as 33PIX.1017 from a close attendant of the Third King, Dasho Sangay Tenzin.

The year also saw institution of the art endowment fund for local artists and filmmakers.

An exhibition titled Bhutan – A Hint to Happiness was inaugurated by Her Majesty the Queen Mother Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck and Her Royal Highness Princess Dechen Yangzom Wangchuck at the Ueno Royal Museum in Tokyo, Japan. Many sacred art objects, including the royal namza (costumes) of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen, were displayed at the exhibition gallery.

While the year saw many such positive developments, the ban of the movie titled Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait shocked the nation. The decision came after the National Film Review Board and the Department of Culture reviewed the film. The authorities stated that the film cannot be screened in the country due to various religious masks used by the characters in the film, which was not in keeping with the tradition and culture.

Thinley Zangmo