Years for Song and Dance
In 1965 a two-year-old Tibetan boy was carried by his pregnant mother
over the Himalayas to the safety of a refugee camp in southwestern
years later that same woman, Sonam Dekyi, the mother of Tibetan
musicologist Ngawang Choephel, flew from India to the United States.
For the first time in her 60 years she boarded an airplane to appeal
to politicians, ambassadors, college students and anyone else who
might help her son.
spending a year at Middlebury College in Vermont as a Fulbright
scholar studying musical notation and filmmaking, Ngawang journeyed
to Tibet. He was arrested by the Chinese government, accused of
espionage, and given an 18 year sentence. His crime? Videotaping
Tibetans singing and dancing: documenting Tibetan culture.
the course of Sonam’s stay in the Boston area, I drove her
to the Peace
Abbey in Sherborn, Massachusetts . She accepted their Courage
of Conscience award for her son. The interview I taped with Sonam
can be viewed at photojournalist Eugene Louie’s page on Dirck
I am thrilled to report that five years later during the spring
of 2002, Ngawang re-traced his mother’s journey to the Peace
Abbey. His release after enduring six long years of harsh conditions
within the Chinese prison system only came about because many of
us spoke up and protested on his behalf. Many others have not been
Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org/
The International Campaign for Tibet: http://savetibet.org/
is continuing his documentation of Tibetan culture from his home
in New York City. The film he started when he was arrested should
be completed sometime soon.