05 January, 2013

spreading light in remote himalayas

Little Sun
Little Sun is an inspired product and work of art that seeks to provide solar powered sustainable light in areas where electricity is scarce and people’s circumstances don’t afford them the opportunity of light.  They are a global project to get clean and affordable light to the 20% of the world’s population who have no access to the electrical grid. 

Tibetan nuns having a tea break
I was living with Tibetan nuns in an isolated monastery of remote Everest region, Nepal. There I was to experience chronic loneliness, isolation along with a desperate sickness that nearly saw me abandoning my travels and returning to Europe to be with my mum (know the feeling?).

My day would start at 5.30am where I would be awoken by the blowing of the conch to indicate the start of the mantras. The nuns performed a special 10 day long ceremony for long life and in devotion of the Buddhist deity; White Tara and I would sit in sometimes and meditate alongside them shifting from dead leg to dead leg while amazed at their stillness.
The Tibetan Buddhist Puja
Everyday they would sit and recite mantras until 8-9pm using the Tibetan Buddhist and shamanic inspired instruments, mandalas and offerings. It was incredible to be a part of and inspired admiration for these determined women who'd been forced out of their homeland in order to continue their faith.

I would help with collecting wood, vegetables, washing up and trek a little around the area, however in truth, I really struggled with the lack of integration and felt duly isolated having no more than my iPhone, some books and my friend and monk Pasang, who spoke English to keep me company.

But there is a reason for everything. And while in my somewhat adverse and alien circumstances, living in a mud hut sharing a room with a mouse, I learned an incredible amount through solitude. Especially the virtues of technology! One day I received a newsletter from and learned of the remarkable invention; Little Sun and having nothing better to do besides wash with cold water and a bucket in the chill outside, I got poking the screen and sent them an email.

A few months later, back in Parvati valley (India), I was collecting a box of Little Suns, which had been delivered from Berlin to the local doctor and my friend, Adi Sharma.

While in Parvati Valley there is a huge hydropower plant station being developed in order to capitalise on India’s most powerful river, Parvati; it appears that the small villages nearby are not to benefit from it. While locals in villages nearby continue to struggle for consistent electricity power and furthermore suffer winters of waist deep snow, isolation and poverty, the Indian government will continue to grow in power and wealth as a consequence of the Himalayan project. In fact the electricity bills for these poor communities is ironically high given the natural resource that is being capitalised on their doorstep.
Little Sun Love
I felt very blessed to be able to shine a bit of light for a family that took care of me while I made the 2 day trek to Kheer Ganga; the highest Holy River in India (and furthermore one complete with lovely hot springs) as I delivered the Little Suns in to the hands of a humble family who treated me as though I were one of their own.

They have no running water, live in a small room,  farm and forage for food while the five adorable children all roll together amongst handmade blankets on the floor to sleep. I stayed with them a number of times and while my body got attacked by bed-lice, I was happy to sacrifice comfort to be in the warm and loving environment of this kind family. Didi (sister) is like my own sister, a few years older than I am and yet with a wisdom far beyond. She also makes the best chapatti’s I have ever had and taught me a thing or two about cooking parantha on a tandoor. The family are low caste and sadly, at the mercy of the judgements and discriminations that this tradition afflicts but their acceptance of it astounded me. They would never complain. The only complaint I heard was of Didi’s husband explaining that the winters were so tough “it is like prison” as they spent their time confined within the four walls sitting around an iron box to keep warm.

Little Sun offered them something the Indian government has not; free and reliable light. I am all too humble to have had the opportunity to give their community something that for much of my life was taken for granted and I sincerely hope that anyone reading this can feel duly inspired to make a difference where they can, connecting good ideas and innovations with those that need it within our rapidly globalised and technological world. It doesn't take much.
In everyday life, it is important that we critically engage in global initiatives and local contexts. Our actions have consequences for the world. Little Sun is a wedge that opens up the urgent discussion about bringing sustainable energy to all from the perspective of art.  – Olafur Eliasson (Little Sun)
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