Tenzin Norbu Lama

Tenzin Norbu Lama

Tenzin Norbu Lama was born in 1971 in Dolpo, one of Nepal's most remote and rugged mountain regions on the Tibetan border. He hails from a long lineage of painters dating back more than 400 years, and discovered his passion for art at a very young age. By the age of 12, he began painting and training with his father in traditional thangka painting. In his own words:

From a very young age, I watched my father and other relatives paint. In Dolpo, paper and pen are scarce so I would often draw in the ashes of our fire, or on the sand and the snow. Eventually, I was trained to draw on wooden boards coated with oil and sand using a curved bamboo pen.This is the traditional style of training for thangka painters in Dolpo. Many of my earlier drawings can still be found in the homes of my relatives in Dolpo. While I was also trained in sculpture and mask making, painting and drawing were my favorites.

In addition to his classical talent, Norbu is infusing this genre of painting with vivid images of pastoral landscapes and lifeways. He has developed a unique style, depicting local myth and history, as well as the rhythms of daily life in Dolpo and the greater Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau. In his own words:

My village lies at 4,500 meters and is known for its harsh climate. Dolpo is enveloped by snow for eight months of the year and its dramatic mountain landscapes are what I try to capture in my art. For inspiration I also draw on my family, historical books, legends, and my own memories of Dolpo, which I often see in my dreams. I integrate the culture and tradition of Dolpo into my paintings. Even the smallest details such as body postures and clothing reflect pieces of my culture and my home.

A well-known artist among the Buddhist and Nepali community, Tenzing Norbu mixes the thangka genre with creative and novel images of the Himalayan and Tibetan landscape and lifestyle with which he is so familiar. Norbu's work has appeared in many international publications, including Caravans of the Himalaya and National Geographic magazine as well as the feature film, "Himalaya", which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1999. He is the illustrator of four children's books.

Norbu exhibits his painting regularly in Nepal and abroad; his work is currently held in the private collections (such as Leila Hadley Luce) and museums, including the Johnson Museum of Art (Cornell University). Along with the photographs of Eric Valli, Norbu's work was featured in a major exhibition at the Luxenbourg Gardens in Paris, in 2002, which was attended by more than 40,000 people. Beyond his artistic accomplishments, which are increasingly recognized both in Nepal and internationally, Norbu is today turning his talent and creativity to education, helping to create a cultural and economic renaissance in his remote homeland by training a cohort of apprentices from Dolpo, a region where few economic opportunities exist. He also donates a portion of the proceeds from all of his exhibits to support the Kula Primary School, the only educational institution in his home village of Tinkyu. He returns to Dolpo - his home and the inspiration for his art - for several months each year, where he plays an active role in the change and continuity of village life.

Tenzin Norbu
Tinkyu Village, Panzang Valley
Dolpa District, Nepal
E-Mail: dolponorbu[at]hotmail.com
Kathmandu phone: 977 - 9810 - 40005