Shangri-La A Photographic Essay

We are happy to announce ..

the imminent publication of our first book. Shangri-La, A Photographic Essay, is a study of Diqing Prefecture from the conservationist’s point of view.

Ms. Sahra Malik was commissioned to produce a book to highlight the beautiful scenery of Diqing Prefecture and to give a glimpse of the fascinating cultural heritage of the people living in the region. 85 percent of the population is of Khampa Tibetan origin. Other strong ethnic groups make up the remaining 15 per cent including Naxi, Lisu, Muoso, Yi, and a number of others. These groups each have unique cultural practices and often speak their own language.

A fragile, high altitude eco-system and colorful lifestyle are the themes in Sahra’s latest work. Delicate flowers in a strong composition, dark eyes of the farmer woman who interrupts her field work long enough for a photograph, vista of lush summer landscape dotted with fine stone dwellings all remind us that there are still wild and beautiful places on our planet where local people live in harmony with nature.

Sahra Malik, photographer and graphic artist, presently lives in London. She will complete her Master of Arts degree at Central St Martin’s, London School of Art in May 2007. Sahra lived in Beijing for two years after graduating from New York University with a BA in Photography. She taught Graphic Design at Raffles LaSalle University and has worked as a freelance designer for a local textile company during her stay in China.

YMHF works on eco-tourism projects which focus on preserving this harmony yet promotes improved opportunities for people. Our goal is to see the greater area protected under a national park plan. We have commissioned this work to bring Shangri-La to the world and to encourage others to contribute to our efforts.

“Carter Malik-What a Lady”

Excerpts from Women of China magazine Sept 2006 by Wei Liang and Kristina Sivelle

Carter Malik, wife of Khalid Malik, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in China, is director of Yunnan Mountain Heritage Foundation. She hasn’t wasted a moment of her three-year stay in China. In excerpts below from an exclusive interview with Women of China, Mrs. Malik talks about her passion for Chinese handicrafts, her love for yoga and how beginning a foundation for women in Yunnan Province’s remote Shangri-La region has become the focus of her stay in China.


Artist at Heart

Carter Malik was born in San Francisco, California in the United States, but she considers herself to be “more of an international person than a Californian.” This is abundantly clear, as she describes the various countries in which she has lived and worked. She began her career in Katmandu, Nepal where she had a cottage industry style workshop and a boutique to sell Nepali handicrafts. That was where she met her Pakistani-born husband, Khalid Malik, who was working in the United Nations in Nepal at that time. Ms.Malik later worked as a consultant in handicraft development and eco-tourism in Uzbekistan. The Maliks now live in China and Ms. Malik travels across the country on official visits with her husband.

Life in China

Life in China is very busy for Ms. Malik. When asked to reveal something that few people know about her, she says she’s been practicing Yoga for more than 30 years. She even teaches it. Sipping sweet black tea in her United Nations residence in Beijing, Ms. Malik steers the conversation away from herself and on to what she considers to be a more important topic— her new-found project based in Yunnan Province’s Shangri-La.

Yunnan Mountain Heritage Foundation

An old Tibetan town in northwestern Yunnan has captured Ms. Malik’s heart. The first time she visited Shangri-La, originally named Zhongdian, was in 2004, when she attended a conference there, with her husband, on eco-tourism and sustainable development. She describes the old town as “immensely charming,” but what really appealed to Ms. Malik was the richly varied local handicrafts. Her love affair with the village began thanks to a chicken curry. “My husband and I were in the old town one day, and we saw and advert for chicken curry in the window of ‘Hazels Bar.'” The curry attracted her Pakistani husband, and they decided to eat there that night. They took their friends and associates with them. “While we were there, someone, brought in a selection of local artwork to show us. They were beautiful,” Ms. Malik remembers. She was immediately impressed, and she wanted to get involved in the development and marketing of the artwork. “My past experiences gave me the tools I thought would be useful. I promised I’d come back and do something,” she said.

She kept her promise. Ms. Malik has been back 14 times in the past 18 months. She has founded the Yunnan Mountain Heritage Foundation, also called YMHF. “I’m honored if I can make any useful contribution,” she says. On one visit, Ms. Malik spent 10 days visiting all the surrounding villages and researching the local handicrafts. She discovered that 15 different ethnic groups could be found in the area, and that each had its own specific handicrafts. “It was just such a great place. My husband and I have rented an old Tibetan house there, and we’ve taken our family there and friends from big cities in China and abroad. They all thought it was amazing.”

Villagers in Shangri-La are mainly of Tibetan ethnicity, and they make their living herding yak, growing barley, and collecting a unique mountain mushroom, Matsutaki, which is exported to Japan as a prized gourmet delicacy. They also collect mountain herbs, such as “snow lotus,” which she describes as, “looking like an artichoke with a fuzzy heart.” Ms. Malik hopes that through the work of Yunnan Mountain Heritage Foundation, she can develop projects to help the local economy, and she notes, “Chinese are very forward thinking and proactive.” The locals realize the economy should be developed appropriately. “They are mindful of the right kind of development,” she says.

She has secured funding from the Hong Kong Women’s Federation so YMHF can open a Women’s Center in Shangri-La, where local women can gain handicraft skills. Ms. Malik is planning to open a handicraft center, where products can be purchased and marketed.

Base Survey

Ms. Malik’s experience in eco-tourism has given her the tools needed to help the local residents develop tourism — without destroying local culture. “The villagers don’t want to lose their identity to an imported, external culture. They want to protect their local practices,” she said.

Ms. Malik is a valuable resource, not only due to what she knows, but also who she knows. Due to her many connections, there are now a number of students working as volunteers on projects in Shangri-La, and their findings will help the work of YMHF. Two interns, one from Hong Kong and the other from Toronto, have helped her organize the renovation of an old Tibetan home for the Shangri-La Womens’ Center and the grand opening held in August this year. Several students from Hong Kong Poly Technic University are conducting a baseline survey in the village, to explore the situation in the village and the villagers’ needs. “Some female researchers from Lhasa have found that some women in the village have two husbands. That’s really interesting,” Ms. Malik said.

Fifteen students from the United World College in Wales, led by Ms. Malik’s son, went to Shangri-La during the past summer to teach English and participate in cultural exchange projects.

The complete artilcle is in Women of China Magazine,
September 2006, Pg. 60