In addition to a display of photographs in the Long Gallery, this exhibition also presents Nyema’s work in a variety of innovative ways that refer to the context of their creation, including filmed interviews with those she photographed. In them, her subjects express a diverse range of responses to questions about their identity and sense of belonging.
Digital displays are used for the first time in the main galleries of the Pitt Rivers to make examples of the material Nyema studied in the collections accessible to museum visitors. Large-scale photographs, with portraits of the same subject on each side, are suspended as banners in the heart of the museum in the style of a contemporary art installation but also emulating the prayer flags hung at Buddhist sites across the Tibetan-speaking world.
‘Performing Tibetan Identities: Photographic Portraits by Nyema Droma’ (interviews with participants) from Pitt Rivers Museum on Vimeo.
By inserting Nyema’s pictures amongst the thousands of objects from all over the world that have filled the museum since the late nineteenth century, this installation acts as a commentary on a historic ethnographic museum. It is also designed to acknowledge the dynamism and modernity of Tibetan culture and to inject the presence, creativity and agency of the current generation of Tibetans, wherever they may reside.
This exhibition is the result of a collaboration between Nyema Droma and Clare Harris, Curator for Asian Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum and Professor in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford. For further information about Nyema Droma’s work and the history of how foreigners photographed Tibet and Tibetans, see Clare Harris, Photography and Tibet (London: Reaktion Books, 2016).