Tibet and Tibetan writers were highlighted on Saturday, September 1, 2012, at the Bjørnson International Festival of Literature at a successful event co-hosted with Amnesty International and Norwegian Tibet Committee.
Øystein Alme of Voice of Tibet radio station introduced the two speakers, Chungdak Koren and Dechen Pemba, to a packed and attentive audience. Following Dechen Pemba’s reading of the poem “A Sheet of Paper Can Become a Knife” by Tibetan poet Woeser, member of the Exile Parliament, Chungdak Koren, gave an overview of the background to the current political situation and talked about the ongoing self-immolations in Tibet. Koren also explained the position of the Central Tibetan Administration with regard to the Tibet issue.
Dechen Pemba, editor of the translations website High Peaks Pure Earth, went on to give a presentation about the crackdown on intellectuals in Tibet, especially since 2008 and highlighted cases of writers and poets such as Tashi Rabten and Pema Rinchen who have been imprisoned by China for peaceful literary expressions of their views.
Speaking about Pemba, Koren said, “It heartens me to see a young and dedicated exiled Tibetan, taking responsibility in constructive ways for Tibet. The work that High Peaks Pure Earth is doing, serving as a platform for Tibetan voices from Tibet, is extremely important. It is my hope that the voices of Tibetan cultural figures have further been amplified at the Bjørnson International Festival of Literature today.”
The work of Tibetan exile writers was also featured in Pemba’s presentation. Pemba read an extract from exile writer Bhuchung D. Sonam’s most recent publication “Yak Horns” and invited Kenyan writer and poet in exile Philo Ikonya to read a poem by exile Tibetan poet Tenzin Tsundue titled “My Tibetanness” to close the event.
The Bjørnson Festival of International Literature in Molde, Norway, is a prestigious annual event and is named after Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson is considered, alongside Henrik Ibsen, to be one of the four great Norwegian writers. Bjørnson penned the Norwegian national anthem, advocated for minority rights and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1903.