Photos: Bhutan Refugees Chronicle Their Journey to Colorado
For many refugees, their flight to the United States was their first experience with air travel.
Bhim Bahadur Bhattarai
A photography exhibit opening this weekend offers rare glimpses of an arduous journey: The long road taken by displaced people from Bhutan, many of whom have spent years in refugee camps awaiting resettlement opportunities, to strange new worlds -- like Aurora, Colorado. The images were taken by young refugees themselves, with cameras handed out in a resettlement camp in eastern Nepal by the Denver-based Picture Me Here project.
Hemmed in by the Himalayas, as well as the sizable geopolitical presence of China and India, Bhutan is the first country to tout "gross national happiness" over "gross domestic product" as a measure of success. But life there hasn't been too happy for the persecuted Lhotshampa ethnic minority; tens of thousands have been shifted to refugee camps in Nepal, and eventually to new lives in Europe or North America. A good number have found themselves in Aurora -- which, as recently noted in my cover story on the Niyakko Rush Soccer Club, has become a multicultural melting pot, with more than twenty percent of its population born in another country.
Last spring Picture Me Here began working with Bhutan refugees headed for Aurora, supplying them with cameras and training to record the journey. The exhibit Damak to Denver features photos, videos and writings dealing with the transition. For example, this shot by Keshabi Neupane shows how to transform a closet into a shrine-like setting for Puja, a Hindu religious ritual:
From Damak to Denver runs from November 22 through December 20 at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, 1513 Boulder Street, with an opening reception from 2 to 4 p.m. on November 22. For more information, call 303-837-1341.
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