Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 9:03 AM
Two young photographers are making an effort to preserve cultures on the brink of change.
Senior monks prepare for a ceremony during one of Lo Manthang's many festivals.
Taylor Weidman thinks so.
At the foot of the Himalayas is a region of Nepal that has been virtually untouched by modern times. "Mustang," according to photographer Weidman, "is arguably the best-preserved example of traditional Tibetan life left in the world."
Weidman received a Fulbright Scholarship in 2010 to document changes faced by Tibetan groups in Nepal. He spent several months negotiating for access to the Upper Mustang region and repeatedly visited the region over the course of his scholarship.
"The lifestyle [in Upper Mustang] was completely different, alien and remarkable," Weidman writes in an email. "The people there still live very much as they did 500 years ago when the kingdom was founded."
The Loba people of Upper Mustang are largely Buddhist, and prayer and tradition are important aspects of everyday life. "The elderly," says Weidman, "spend their days spinning prayer wheels and chanting mantras," and "Buddhist astrologers are consulted on every aspect of life, from what to name a child to when to begin working the fields."
While Upper Mustang remains a preserved region of tradition (farming is still done using wooden plows), the area is experiencing new development. The first road in the region is nearing completion and will bridge remote villages to larger cities, bringing new opportunity — but also change. Already, the younger generation is becoming increasingly disconnected as those who can afford to go to school leave for neighboring Kathmandu or India and do not return. Some Loba leaders fear that amid these changes, tradition is being lost.
Upon his return from Nepal, Weidman and partner Nina Wegner founded the Vanishing Cultures Project, with the aim to preserve and support traditional cultures like Upper Mustang. Their next project will take them to Mongolia, where they will document pastoral herders who face desertification, displacement and a rapidly changing economy. Photos from Upper Mustang can also now be found in a book, Mustang: Lives and Landscapes of the Lost Tibetan Kingdom. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]
This article is filed in: World News
Khaled El-Masri says he was mistakenly flown to a secret prison in Afghanistan by the CIA.
Civilians Flee, Soldiers Dig In On Sudanese Frontier
The U.N. is threatening both Sudans with sanctions if they can't reverse their escalating feud.
How To Address France's New, Unmarried First Lady
France's new president was inaugurated Tuesday, and he's moving into the presidential palace with his longtime "companion." Host Michel Martin and the Beauty Shop ladies weigh in on political protocol when it comes to heads of state, politicians and their unmarried significant others.
At Trial, Serb Gen. Mladic Taunts Survivors With Throat-Cutting Gesture
Charged with 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, he remains defiant.
Atlanta Opens New International Terminal
Officials hope the facility means more international businesses will choose to locate in Georgia.
News updates from WGBH