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Disciples of a Crazy Saint: Photographing the Buchen of Spiti

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  • UserPatrick Sutherland (Reader in Photojournalism at the University of the Arts London)
  • ClockMonday 14 February 2011, 16:30-18:00
  • HouseCRASSH 17, Mill Lane.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Claire Wheeler.

Patrick Sutherland (Reader in Photojournalism at the University of the Arts London)

The Buchen of Spiti in the Indian Himalayas are performers of rituals, actors and disciples of the fourteenth / fifteenth-century “crazy saint” Thang Tong Gyalpo. They are renowned for performing an elaborate exorcism called the Ceremony of Breaking the Stone. They also enact a local form of the Tibetan Opera for village audiences. These Buddhist morality plays illustrate the principles of karma and ideas of impermanence but also offer a space for uninhibited speech and earthy humour. Photographer Patrick Sutherland has been photographing the Buchen for many years. When he recently gave them some prints he was told that they were so awful that the performers had torn them up and thrown them in the fire. Disciples of a Crazy Saint describes Sutherland’s further return to Spiti to investigate Buchen ideas about photography and to negotiate a form of documentation more appropriate to the Buchen self-image as specialist religious practitioners.

This talk is part of the CRASSH series.

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