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Vanishing Cultures

April 17, 2013
By: Taylor Weidman

Mongolian herders and the residents of the Upper Mustang region in north-central Nepal are two ancient cultures struggling to survive in a modern world. To see more of their lives, click through these photos, provided by the Vanishing Cultures Project (www.vcproject.org/projects/past), a group that documents indigenous communities that are facing changes to their traditions. Here, monks gather for a ceremony on a field outside the city of Lo Manthang in Mustang. (more)

 

Focus (Italy)

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Gli Ultima Nomadi

March 2013
By: Taylor Weidman

(A Photo Essay published in the Italian Science Magazine, Focus)

 

 

 

 

The Atlantic

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The Dark Side of Mongolia's Mining Boom

The Dark Side of Mongolia’s Mineral Boom

February 12, 2013
By: Nina Wegner & Taylor Weidman

The launch this year of Oyu Tolgoi, the world’s largest untapped copper-and-gold mine, has ignited a debate in Mongolia about how to avoid a massive rise in income disparity. While most of the country’s wealth accrues in the nation’s capital, the vast majority of nomadic herders, who make up a third of Mongolia’s population, remain skeptical that they will reap any benefits from this new venture. The herders who live near Oyu Tolgoi in the Gobi Desert say they are getting both the best and worst of the deal.

Australia-based mining giant Rio Tinto is courting Gobi nomads and offering impressive compensation packages — particularly when compared to national salary averages — to win over locals. New schools, full-ride scholarships, guaranteed lifetime employment, part-time positions that don’t interfere with herding schedules, lump sums of cash, and new sheds and animal pens for each family are just some of the incentives to entice natives to move off ancestral grazing land and make room for the mega-mine. (more)

 

Seattle Globalist

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New Chinese highway exposes medieval Tibetan kingdom to the modern world

New Chinese Highway Exposes Medieval Tibetan Kingdom to the Modern World

January 30, 2013
By: Nina Wegner & Taylor Weidman

In one of the best-preserved medieval cities in the world, a new highway is bringing all the comforts of modern technology. And all the consequences.

Lo Manthang, an ancient fortress city nestled deep in the foothills of the Nepali Himalayas, has a dwindling community of people whose lifestyle is mostly unchanged from their kingdom’s heyday in the 1500s.

It was a thriving capital of the ethnically Tibetan kingdom of Lo, now known as the district of Upper Mustang.

For centuries traffic into isolated Lo was limited to the seasonal merchants and adventurers traveling the Salt Route to reach the markets of China or India. (more)

 

Emaho Magazine

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Mongolia – Escape from the Desert

Mongolia – Escape from the Desert

January 21, 2013
By: Nina Wegner & Taylor Weidman

Rolling over the surreally monotonous terrain of grasslands in our “Russian jeep,” it wasn’t immediately evident that this was a country deep in the throes of change. Since 2011, Mongolia’s sky-rocketing economy fueled by its nascent mining industry had been turning the country into one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Meanwhile, a spate of record-breaking harsh winters called dzud over the past 20 years was making the traditional practice of pastoral nomadism untenable. Now, bumping along in the off-road vehicle, we were on a journey to find out how nomadic herders were being impacted by these changes, in their own words.

We began to see the signs of change as we went from homestead to homestead, interviewing countless families in their white felt tents called ger. Inside the ger, we drank salty milk tea and watched flat-screen TVs powered by solar panels. In the pastures, we watched nomads herd their animals on motorcycle rather than on horseback. Surrounding these ger in a wide periphery were piles of bones from dead animals, remnants of several disastrous dzud. We noticed a curious lack of young adults—whom we eventually found out were all living, working, or studying in the city—and heard the same refrain from their nomadic parents over and over again: “My children will go to school, they will not be herders.” (more)

 

Boston Globe’s ‘Big Picture’

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The Big Picture – Mongolia's Nomads

Mongolia’s Nomads

December 31, 2012
By: Lane Turner & Taylor Weidman

Through his Vanishing Cultures Project photographer Taylor Weidman documents threatened ways of life. Regular readers of The Big Picture will recognize his distinctive work from his previous entry here on the Mustang region of Nepal. Weidman writes of the threatened nomadic culture in Mongolia: “Mongolian pastoral herders make up one of the world’s largest remaining nomadic cultures. For millennia they have lived on the steppes, grazing their livestock on the lush grasslands. But today, their traditional way of life is at risk on multiple fronts. Alongside a rapidly changing economic landscape, climate change and desertification are also threatening nomadic life, killing both herds and grazing land. Due to severe winters and poor pasture, many thousands of herders have traded in their centuries-old way of life for employment in mining towns and urban areas. The ger (yurt) camps that ring the capital city Ulaanbaatar house a permanent population of displaced nomads. There, they live without running water or a tangible use for the skills and crafts that were practiced on the steppes. The younger generation is no longer learning these essential aspects of their nomadic heritage.” (more)

 

Global Oneness Project

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Modernizing Mustang

Modernizing Mustang: A Hidden Tibetan Kingdom Meets Its Future

December 11, 2012
By: Nina Wegner

The watch on Chime Ningjing Gurung’s wrist shines in the sun, its imitation platinum metal echoing the gleam of a Rolex. Chime (pronounced Chim-eh) is 28 years old, quick to laugh, and quick to learn the rules of Western card games. His favorite accessories are wrap-around shades and Adidas-style shoes from India.

On a busy Kathmandu street bustling with stray dogs, minibuses, and haggling shoppers, Chime looks like his fellow city slickers, a denizen of Nepal’s topsy-turvy metropolis. However, Chime comes from one of the most remote communities in Nepal, which some scholars consider the best-preserved medieval city in the world. (more)

 

The Christian Science Monitor

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Earth and Air Shape Mongolia

Earth and Air Shape Mongolia

December 2, 2012
By: Nina Wegner & Taylor Weidman

Livestock in Mongolia outnumber humans 15 to 1, and one-third of the country’s 3 million people still rely on animal husbandry for their living. But climate change and record-breaking cold winters in the past two decades have wiped out whole herds and forced hundreds of thousands of bereft nomads to flock to Ulaanbaatar, the capital city, in hopes of finding a new start. Now, 70 percent of the city’s residents live in ger (yurt) districts – settlements of displaced nomads living without electricity or sanitation – while Ulaanbaatar struggles to provide public utilities to a mushrooming population.

But Mongolia also has a new hope: Home to some of the world’s largest untapped reserves of copper, gold, rare earth elements, and coal, Mongolia was the world’s fastest-growing economy in 2011. As a consequence, Ulaanbaatar is becoming more cosmopolitan, while the wealth and potential of huge mines, such as Oyu Tolgoi in the Gobi Desert, help expand cities, build schools, renovate monasteries, and provide jobs to a new generation of graduates. But even as the push and pull of a booming new industry shapes the future of Mongolia, most here still look to herders as the country’s stewards of cultural history and heritage. (more)

 

Global Oneness Project

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Mongolia's Nomads

Mongolia’s Nomads

November 20, 2012
By: Taylor Weidman

Mongolian pastoral herders make up one of the world’s last remaining nomadic cultures. For millennia they have lived on the steppes, grazing their livestock on the lush grasslands. But today, their traditional way of life is at risk on multiple fronts. Alongside a rapidly changing economic landscape, climate change and desertification are also threatening nomadic life, killing both herds and grazing land. Due to severe winters and poor pasture, many thousands of herders have traded in their centuries-old way of life for employment in mining towns and urban areas. Most herders who stay on the steppe push their children to pursue education and get jobs in the cities believing that pastoral nomadism is no longer a secure or sustainable way of life.

This essay features a selection of images from the book, Mongolia’s Nomads: Life in the Steppe, sold by the Vanishing Cultures Project. Proceeds go towards supporting cultural initiatives in Mongolia. (more)

 

Global Oneness Project

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Mustang: Lives and Landscapes

Mustang: Lives and Landscape of the Lost Tibetan Kingdom

November 13, 2012
By: Taylor Weidman

Hidden in the rain shadow of the Himalaya in one of the most remote corners of Nepal lies Mustang, or the former Kingdom of Lo. Hemmed in by the world’s highest mountain range to the south and an occupied and shuttered Tibet to the north, this tiny Tibetan kingdom has remained virtually unchanged since the 15th century. Today, Mustang is arguably the best preserved example of traditional Tibetan life left in the world.

This essay features a selection of images from the book, Mustang: Lives and Landscape of the Lost Tibetan Kingdom with a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and is sold by the Vanishing Cultures Project. Proceeds go towards supporting cultural initiatives in Mustang. (more)

 

News Photographer Magazine (NPPA)

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Documenting Vanishing Cultures

Documenting Vanishing Cultures

November 1, 2012
By: Taylor Weidman

The day I got a telephone call from the Home Secretary’s office in Kathmandu, I was elated. THe secretary had signed off on my proposal. As the fortunate recipient of a Fulbright scholarship in 2010, I hoped to complete a photography project documenting the changing lifestyle of Tibetan groups in Nepal. And after months of wading through a Byzantine and oftentimes discouraging bureaucracy, I finally got permission to photograph the restricted region called Mustang, in northern Nepal. The very next day I began the seven-day journey to Lo Manthang, the capital of the former Tibetan Kingdom.

 

Public Radio International

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Naadam: Mongolia’s Ancient Mid-Summer Sports Fest

July 13, 2012
By: Lauren Knapp, Nina Wegner, & Taylor Weidman

Inside a ramshackle stadium in the Mongolian town of Uugtaal, around 40 kids prepare for a 14 mile horse race. They encourage their horses – and themselves – with a song.

A few hundred people are participating in this county-level Naadam. The events mainly take place in this small brick arena on the edge of town.

Just before the race, the small jockeys gather on their horses to fortify themselves with “airag,” a mildly alcoholic drink made from mare’s milk. They pour some on their horses’ heads and hind quarters.

The kids are led out to the starting line by a man carrying a Mongolian flag. Then, they race out into the open steppe.

The Naadam events date back to the 13th century, around the time of Genghis Khan. The games were said to be a way to mark victorious campaigns and to train young warriors. (more)

 

Asia Sentinel

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A Last Look at Shangri-La

June 29, 2012
By: Nina Wegner & Taylor Weidman

Mustang, the former Kingdom of Lo, is hidden in the rain shadow of the Himalayas in one of the most remote corners of Nepal. Hemmed in by the world’s highest mountain range to the south and an occupied and shuttered Tibet to the north, this tiny Tibetan kingdom has remained virtually unchanged since the 15th century. Today, Mustang is arguably the best-preserved example of traditional Tibetan life in the world.

But Mustang is now poised for change. A new highway will soon connect the region to Kathmandu and China for the first time, ushering in a new age of modernity and altering Mustang’s desert-mountain villages forever. (link)

 

Sacramento Bee

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Mustang: Nepal’s Former Kingdom of Lo

May 7, 2012
By: Tim Reese & Taylor Weidman

Photojournalist Taylor Weidman, based out of Mongolia, is founder of the Vanishing Cultures Project. The project is, “…dedicated to documenting endangered cultures, advocating for locally-run preservation projects and helping to fund these projects through donations, book sales and print sales,” Weidman says. As part of the project, Weidman and a writer spend four to six months a year with an indigenous group facing rapid cultural change. They create a book documenting the traditions and lifestyles of the communty to, “serve as an enduring record.” Last year they spent time in Nepal. “Hidden in the rain shadow of the Himalaya in one of the most remote corners of Nepal lies Mustang, or the former Kingdom of Lo. Hemmed in by the world’s highest mountain range to the south and an occupied and shuttered Tibet to the north, this tiny Tibetan kingdom has remained virtually unchanged since the 15th century. Today, Mustang is arguably the best-preserved example of traditional Tibetan life left in the world. But today, Mustang is poised for change. A new highway will connect the region to Kathmandu and China for the first time, ushering in a new age of modernity and altering Mustang’s desert-mountain villages forever. (link)

 

Boston Globe’s ‘Big Picture’

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Boston Globe

Mustang: Nepal’s Former Kingdom of Lo

April 18, 2012
By: Lane Turner & Taylor Weidman

Photographer Taylor Weidman was given special permission by the government of Nepal to travel in the restricted area of Mustang. He writes, “Mustang, or the former Kingdom of Lo, is hidden in the rain shadow of the Himalaya in one of the most remote corners of Nepal. Hemmed in by the world’s highest mountain range to the south and an occupied and shuttered Tibet to the north, this tiny Tibetan kingdom has remained virtually unchanged since the 15th century. Today, Mustang is arguably the best-preserved example of traditional Tibetan life in the world. But it is poised for change. A new highway will connect the region to Kathmandu and China for the first time, ushering in a new age of modernity and altering Mustang’s desert-mountain villages forever.” Collected here is a selection of Weidman’s work from his book “Mustang: Lives and Landscapes of the Lost Tibetan Kingdom,” proceeds from which support Weidman’s Vanishing Cultures Project. (link)

 

The Atlantic

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Photos of an Ancient Nepalese Culture in a Modernizing World

February 24, 2012
By: Shreeya Singha & Taylor Weidman

Led by photographer Taylor Weidman and writer Nina Wegner, the Vanishing Cultures Project aims to help indigenous groups preserve their culture through documentary journalism and advocacy.

Last year, the duo journeyed to a remote corner of Nepal, or the former Kingdom of Lo, to document the Loba people and the imminent and rapid changes they face from the construction of a highway that will connect Kathmandu and China — and, for the first time, open their traditional way of life to the world.

For centuries, the ethnically Tibetan people of Lo have scratched out a living in the desert mountains through subsistence agriculture and trade on the ancient Salt Route from Tibet to India. Due to political and geographical isolation, much of Loba culture and lifestyle remains unchanged from the 1500s. (more)

 

Business Insider

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An Incredible Look Inside A Vanishing Kingdom In The Remote Mountains Of Nepal

December 16, 2011
By: Meredith Galante & Taylor Weidman

To get to the Kingdom of Mustang in Nepal, nestled near the Himalaya, you have to travel over mountains and through desert-like terrain for 12 days by donkey.

There you’ll find the former Tibetan kingdom and its capital city, Lo Manthang, a community rich with culture that still farms hearty vegetables and once traded on the ancient Salt Route to China.

The monarchy was officially replaced by democracy in 2008, but the community’s way of life is similar to the way it was in the 1500s, in the kingdom’s heyday.

But all that’s about to change. (more)

 

The Christian Science Monitor

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An Arid, Wind-Swept Shangri-La

An Arid, Wind-Swept Shangri-La

January 10, 2011
By: Taylor Weidman

Upper Mustang, or the former King­ dom of Lo, is a remote Buddhist region on the Tibetan plateau of Nepal. The wind­swept and arid area has historically survived on animal husbandry and the trading of goods such as salt and tea between Tibet and India.

Lo was an independent monarchy tied by language, religion, and culture to Tibet, but at the end of the 18th century it was annexed by Nepal. Although culturally Tibetan, Mustang is Nepali by national­ ity and has therefore been untouched by the modernization and secularization that has swept Chinese Tibet. That fact, cou­ pled with the area’s extreme inaccessibil­ ity, has made it arguably the best place to observe traditional Tibetan ways of life.