Bon: The Magic Word will be the first exhibition of art to introduce the Bon, a religious and cultural group of the Himalayas, Tibet, and Central Asia - a group almost unknown in the Western world. The title of the exhibition is taken directly from Bon literature where it is metaphorically described as "the truthful Bon, the magic word that opens the mouth of the dumb."
The Bonpo (practitioners of the Bon religion) are primarily identified as those that follow the teachings of Tonpa Shenrab, made up of many ethnicities and language groups that inhabit regions of the Himalayas, Tibet and Central Asia and areas of Western China. The largest ethnic group is Tibetan; followed by the Naxi, a small minority group in China; and the Kinnauri of North India. The Dolpo region of Western Nepal is also home to a large group of people identified with the Bon religion and culture, and many paintings in the exhibition will be drawn from this area. Bon culture and religion pre-date the northern advance of Buddhism onto the Tibetan Plateau in the 7th century. Despite Buddhism's growth in popularity since the 11th century, Bon religion and culture have continued, albeit in the shadow of Tibetan Buddhist culture, up to the present day. (The works below are a selection from the exhibition).