Tibetan Youth Paintings

This section of the exhibition highlights experiential paintings made by youth between the ages of thirteen and twenty-one living at the Tibetan Homes Foundation (THF) located in the Happy Valley of Mussoorie, India. Established in 1962 with financial support coming from a number of international agencies, THF’s objectives are to protect and aid Tibetan refugees living in South Asia, especially children and the elderly. Maintaining and promoting Tibetan culture is a primary focus.

The initial population of THF included 75 children residing in three homes. Today, the campus consists of 30 large homes of 40 to 50 children each and 11 smaller homes housing 12 children each. Two foster parents reside in each of the large homes and one mother directs each of the smaller ones. At the school an emphasis is placed on meeting the emotional and physical needs of the children, while developing cooperation and a sense of responsibility. Classes from kindergarten through grade 12 are held, and there is a branch middle school near Mussoorie in Rajpur. Children are taught Tibetan and English, as well as Hindi so that the youth will be prepared to compete in the all-India school board examinations. Private scholarships for college education are also available for bright students. In addition, technical vocation classes are held in tailoring, weaving, knitting and candle making. Oil painting and traditional thangka painting round out the curriculum, which places emphasis on Tibetan culture while preparing the students with the necessary skills to live in the modern, global community.

The paintings featured here were produced in a painting club started by Sarah Lukas, president of the Friends of Tibetan Women’s Association. (FOTWA), who realized that painting could be a good mode of therapy for traumatized children. With this in mind, she collaborated with Sonam Chophel, the oil painting instructor at THF, and began the club in 1995 to allow the children an alternative form of expression. Kitty Leaken, whose photographs of the local Tibetan community are on display, took the photographs of the children and, with the help of translator Thinley Gyaltsen, interviewed them. The result is a collaborative venture between many people and institutions.

The paintings are arranged thematically into four distinct sections. The first three follow the experiences of the children’s flight out of Tibet, their adjustment to life in India and at the school, and their memories and imaginings of the homeland. The last section shows political themes, a topic very popular with the children.

All of the paintings displayed in the exhibition and photographed for this on-line exhibition were on loan from FOTWA.


Leaving Home
New Life In India
Imagining Home


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