Mustang, the tangible heritage

Posted: 01/7/18 7:53 AM

Originally written /posted on 

Time for a more conventional post about Mustang. No reason to only piss against the wind. Mustang’s most spectacular tangible heritage are probably its caves. Here the National Geographic story; its documentary in three parts is embedded below.

There is a longer documentary available about the Mustang exploits of the scientist of part two, Mark Aldenderfer, whose main interest is to find out more about the first inhabitants of these high plateaus.

Mustang from the perspective of the climber featured in the first part, Peter Athans, is at the centre of a full length documentary filmed by his wife, so a bit more personal. For the first part of this five-part series go here.

The other impressive tangible heritage are its monasteries, which have luckily received some serious restoration attention. Those interested can have a look at the websites of the Liebermans and of Luigi Fieni. A different take on that heritage is to be had through the somewhat older (1998) art work of Robert Powell.

art and architecture of mustang

Monks’ Quarters, Tsarang Gompa Source:

A last interesting piece to share is this article on the conservation work by John Sanday and his team on the Lhakhang (prayer hall)of Thubchen monastery (its wall paintings also documented on the Lieberman site).

The end note by the editor is disturbing. True. It would be a great loss to the world if Mustang’s heritage would disappear. For all things living, diversity is crucially important. It’s our store of potential, be it biologically or culturally. None of us can look into the future so we haven’t got the foggiest clue what potential we need to be able to draw upon, maybe much sooner than we think. But cultures are resilient in ways that often escape us. Yes, a building may not survive but one might also argue that this whole conservation thing gets it all backwards. The spirit is not in the stones and decorations, it is in the place. Turning a place of power into a monument is culturally about as perniciously subversive as they come. Sure, I’m seriously overstating my case here, for argument’s sake, but the diversity is not in the stones and the art work.

For those with endless time on their hands, I recommend this documentary about Tibetan yogi’s. One of the interesting lessons to be had from it is that some influential Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, seem to perceive the Chinese take-over of their territory and the subsequent diaspora as potentially having increased the survival chances of their culture, all based on the kind of counterfactual reasoning that I brought up earlier in this scrapbook. Another is what they see as the real core of their civilization. And that is not the feudal, huge monastery dominated society that they left behind, but a certain living (and yes, endangered) practice.

As you will not have all that time on your hand, and as I like to end with something groovy, here, what for me counts as a (short) musical emblem of the way cultures, styles, and sentiments survive, adapt and develop in engagement with something/one ‘other’. Enjoy:

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