Ache lhamo – The Art of Tibetan Opera

25 July 2012 by Emma Martin

A man making a mask

Choeden Dorje making a mask

With funding from the Molly Tomlinson Bequest the Ethnology department at World Museum and the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts (TIPA) in Dharamshala, India are working together on an exciting 3-year project to create a collection of contemporary ache lhamo or Tibetan Opera for Liverpool’s spectacular Tibet collections.

You may well be asking yourself what is ache lhamo (pronounced a chey lha mo)? Its unlikely you will have seen any mention of it in a museum with Tibet collections and so it remains relatively unknown to people in Europe and America who may well be familiar with the cham dances and sand mandalas of Tibetan monks.

For Tibetans ache lhamo is an incredibly popular art form, as it is a fast-paced mixture of drama, acrobatics and opera performed ‘in the round’ under a magnificent blue and and white tent. Spectators find themselves a good spot with their family and friends and watch whilst having a delicious picnic.

The Buddhist stories of good triumphing over evil are brought to life with dazzling masks, sumptuous costumes and simple props and it is these costumes, masks and props that we are collecting. The photographs you can see show Choeden Dorje, senior mask maker at TIPA making one of our masks. This red satin balaclava-type mask is for the child of a flesh-eating ogress, which you can probably guess from the fangs!

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