The Tamangs are one of many ethnic groups in Nepal. They belong to the Tibeto-Burmese group and represent some 5.5% of the 30 million population. They are thus one of the first minority groups in the country.
It is difficult to speak about one unique Tamang culture, since their customs and languages are quite different from one region to another. The Tamangs are considered as Buddhists, but their customs are a syncretic mix of local shamanism and Brahmanic rites.
Though theoretically not affected by the Indian system of castes, since they are presumed to be Buddhists, the Tamangs occupy in the Nepalese landscape a second-rate position, revealing all the social discriminations that still exist towards minorities or low-caste groups (according to the Brahmanic hierarchy). This state of things has maintained this population in very modest living conditions, and dependent on other communities.
My concern for the Tamangs stems from the friendships I have developed with several of them. But it also grew as I was watching their traditions, their rites and their behaviors with some contrasted respect. My desire to picture them is the answer to the ensuing questions, as well as the result of the deep happiness that I found in my wanderings among them. My aim has no other purpose than to portray our meetings at a period of deep transformation. This is a time when modernization of the Nepalese society upsets its traditional values and rattles its customs.
Now driven by a powerful movement of rural exodus, the Tamangs’ situation is changing considerably. The men leave their homes with the hope to earn money in town or abroad. Children born in urban areas hardly know the language of their parents and are reluctant to go to their villages. Step by step, the modernization of the country creates new surroundings in which the social and religious barriers are crumbling down. This transformation opens up for the Tamangs, as well as for other marginalized groups, the perspectives of playing a new part within the Nepalese society.