Tsering Gurmet Kungyam Promoting Ladhaki Culture and Heritage Through Sculpture
SalamatRaho presents to you the inspiring story of a young venturer Tsering Gurmet Kungyam from Ladakh. He is an emerging young star in the field of sculpture and art who is progressive, yet promoting his Ladhaki culture and heritage.
Tsering Gurmet Kungyam is an inspiration for the youth of Ladakh who has proved that where there is will, there is way. Youth is an extremely important time in everyone’s life. The youth of a nation are its leaders of tomorrow and so it is vital to educate them with good and strong values, deep thoughts and the awareness to be responsible citizens and protect one’s environment, culture, heritage and mother land. Gurmet is a live example of these fundamentals and will surely inspire many more.
Heritage and culture are pillars of any civilization
Hundreds of years pass and still, there are many countries which have succeeded in still maintaining their culture, social norms, folk art and traditions. With the onset of each generation, there is the threat of losing the hold over one’s heritage. Modernization is inevitable. Change is the only constant. We cannot ask the incoming generation to not progress with time and adapt to present circumstances. So, it is obvious that it is the responsibility of both the generations to balance this progress and build a bridge, instead of walls, between the old and the new. The older generation, though possessive of their heritage, have to keep an open mind, while the youth have to move towards a new horizon, yet, hold onto their culture with tight hands.
Know About Ladakh’s Heritage
Ladakh is a state which is rich in its heritage which spans through hundreds of years. There are monasteries, stupas, stone art rocks, murals, thangka paintings, statues etc which date back to centuries. There are very few trained experts and artists who can work on such projects.
At the same time, there is a new sun rising in this field where the young millennials of Ladakh are taking the risk of playing with new art techniques and materials, but with responsibility.
Gurmet was born in Kungyam village, 100 kms from Leh. He belonged to a shepherds’ family and many were involved in farming too. Young Gurmet would often spend time helping his father and working with mud, sand, water, plants and his bond with such natural elements grew strong. Often, he enjoyed building stone walls and boundary walls around his farms. His grandfather would work with wood carpentry projects in the monasteries and Gurmet enjoyed watching them as he grew up. He enjoyed creating something out of nothing, using natural elements. He went to the local school and creative art always attracted him and he won accolades for his art work. The seeds were sown unconsciously and his bent towards using his hands and mind for creating something unique kept growing. He often painted on walls and great people like Gandhi, Tagore and Mura bleh Kaue always intrigued him.
As there is a lack of opportunities for further education in Ladakh, Gurmet went to complete his education in Jammu. He joined the medical college and was very good with all his diagrams. Slowly he realized that he was more interested in Fine Arts.
The turning point moment
He followed what his soul wanted and moved to Fine arts, without the consent of his parents. His teacher advised him, “Tum Bhed ki chaal mat chalo” and his heart called for a change of path. It was a huge leap, defying what his parents wanted.
This was the leap of faith he took, not knowing what his future will hold but his professors and teachers really supported his decision.
“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation.” – Pearl S Buck.
Education in Music And Fine Arts
He joined the Institute of Music and Fine Arts, University of Jammu. Harshwardhan, Artist from Jammu initially guided him. Harshwardhan’s daily task, 100 sketches and 5 drawings daily was tough in the beginning but has definitely shaped him towards perfection. He did dabble with paint on canvas and papers but soon realised that working with mud, stone and earth had a deeper impact. His family heard about him moving away from becoming a doctor, and shifting to becoming a sculptor. They were upset, but that didn’t obstruct Gurmet.
He studied under the guidance of Sculptor Ravinder Jamwal from Durb Satya studio, Jammu. He was highly inspired and motivated by his teachers. When he finished his BFA course, and then went onto doing his MFA from Banaras Hindu University, He got the opportunity to work as a sculptor at Ratiksha Creative Solutions, Vadodara. Then in Delhi at Grang Studio and also experimented with his photography skills.
As they say, hard work always pays off. He trained himself further by attending workshops in Leh, Jammu, Mysore, BHU etc in various different mediums like stone carving, Clay Modelling, Ice carving, Snow sculpting, Metal Fabrication, Fiberglass, calligraphy, wood carving and art installations. Slowly his art got noticed in the art fraternity.
“There will never be great architects, artists or great work of architecture without the support of great patrons.” And true to these words, Gurmet received the patronship of His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa and The Hemis Monastry Institution to design and make a sculptor of King Singe Namgyal. He was sighted as a young fresher out of college during a Losar project in Delhi. His Holiness could have invited the most famous and experienced international artists and sculptors for this project, yet he chose this young Ladakhi sculptor, wanting to give the youth of Ladakh an opportunity. His Holiness mentored and advised him to create exclusive work or art and inspire more to join. Gurmet was well taken care of by the Chakzoth of the Hemis and Chemday Monastery so that he could focus on his work. He had to do a lot of research because he did not have a clear picture of this 17th century king of Ladakh. Different monasteries had different images so Gurmet formed his own image after his research about the king’s lineage, parental heritage and physical features.
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein, and Gurmet used his imagination to create the most popular image of King Namgyal.
After 6 months of hard core research, Gurmet finally started work on the 14 feet sculpture. The Statue was made of bronze and cast metal, which was a new technique used in Ladakh. Gurmet went through the process of criticism from various scholars but later his work was appreciated. Gurmet smiled and said, he feels blessed to have received this opportunity and facing those challenges was a blessing in disguise. It was a huge honor and his family was really proud of his endeavors.
Awareness Among Youth Of Ladakh
The youth of Ladakh are very aware that there is a strong need to protect their environment, especially against global warming. Gurmet and a few of his young colleagues collaborated with engineer and educator Sonam Wangchuk, the famous environmental crusader from Ladakh, to build huge ice sculptures to save water during winter, which will be later used during dry summers. Yes, many argued why so much effort needs to be taken to make a piece of art which later will anyways melt. But then, we have people like Gurmet who believe that Art is a way to create awareness and broadcast such issues. It took weeks to build the 14ft Changchup Chorten, symbolizing the Budhha’s moment of enlightenment, inside the ice stupa, during peak winters, in Phyang village. This was a symbol of Buddhism. It reflected what his Holiness the Dalai Lama always says, “Awareness is impermanence and appreciation of our human potential will give us a sense of urgency that we must use every precious moment”.
Their aim was to attract more tourist to see these ice sculptures and provide sustainable livelihood to locals. It was also a way to attract the traditional Ladakhis towards modern art by focusing on ancient Budhhist structures. Tsering Gurmet’s fame reached beyond Ladakh borders soon. After the success of this project the HIAL Alternative University sent him to Sweden, to study Ice sculpting and how to make Ice hotels. This gave Gurmet a huge boost and tremendous international exposure and training with modern techniques. He went ahead and participated in the International Snow Sculpture competition in Harbin, China and Gurmet soon became a name to reckon with.
Gurmet said he was always inspired by the words of his Guru, Ravindra Jamwal,” Work like a laborer and think like a scientist.” One should get on ground level and work with raw materials like a laborer but with a researched plan and understanding of techniques and design.
The most humble and down to earth Gurmet hesitantly shared that some of his collections are now found in various places. Fertility- Stone Sculpture at Rinchen Zangpo Gallery, Jammu University
. Friendship Tree, LAMO, Leh. The stone Sculpted Stupa at Apricot tree resort. Bust of HE the 19th Gyalsras Kushok Bakula and the statue of King Singey Namgyal. And several art works are displayed at Spindle Art Gallery and Studio, Leh.
His passion could be easily read through his artistic eyes. The hard work and dedication was followed by the stream of well-deserved awards. He had already received the All India Young Artist Scholarship in Visual Art, Ministry of Culture, GOI. Followed by the Special felicitation by LAHDC Leh during sPal- rNam- Duston, Honorary Award of Ambassador for Art and Life by SAVE Changthang. The artist also received a State Award from the Administration of Union Territory of Ladakh which honored this young artist.
He now has a lovely studio in the exotic location of Shey, near Leh. The studio walls are covered with his certificates and photos of his artwork, though Gurmet never speaks about his own work. I was lucky to watch his work in progress on the huge statue of 1st Lama Staktsang Reapa Nawang Gyatso (Shambunath). It is a huge structure over 30 feet high and a fascinating feature is that it will be made into a cast copper statue. It will be taken down into hundreds of separate units and then put together.
Salamat Raho and the NomadLawyer lawyer team congratulates Tsering Gurmet Kungyam and wishes him lots of success.
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