Dark Heavens: Hunters and Shamans of Mongolia
May 2010

Hamid Sardar

May 6-August 20, 2010

Tibet House US presents an exhibition of stunning photographs by Hamid Sardar entitled “Dark Heavens: Hunters and Shamans of Mongolia”.  After living in Nepal and exploring Tibet and the Himalayas for more than a decade, Hamid went to Outer Mongolia in 2000 to document the nomadic tribes and their way of life.  Following horse-breeders, bear-hunters, wolf-tamers, eagle-masters and reindeer people on their seasonal migrations and hunting expeditions, Hamid’s photographs focus on what he believes to be an ancient and enduring feature of nomadic civiization – the totem-like practices and beliefs connecting people to a fabulous pantheon of spirit-animals.

During the winter season,  I would travel with the Duhalar reindeer people and stay with an old shaman called Tsuyan.  On odd days of the waxing moon, she would go into a trance and transform herself into a reindeer bull, flying off to a place she called the Dark Heavens: a twilight world full of light, sounds and voices from where the ancestors reveal their hidden messages in the form of birds and beasts.  ‘We exist in relation to three things, she would say, …nature, animals and the memory of ancestors.’  Once we forget, the guardian angels abandon us and we invite demons to take hold of our destiny.

Hamid Sardar is a professional photographer as well a a scholar of Tibetan and Mongol languages who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University.  In addition to the photographs exhibited in ‘Dark Heavens’, he has produced three award-winning films.