SPECIAL: 2005 High Asia Calendar

Journey to High Asia

Today most of us are likely to know High Asia--places like Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Nepal, and Tibet--as terrains of terror, zones of fanaticism and conflict: the abode of turbaned warlords, young women with assault rifles, brutal military repression. We know so little about this part of the world, we are free to imagine the worst, and are easily led to perceive a place and people dominated by dark forces.

High Asia is a region of extraordinary diversity in both peoples and landscapes.  One can find there warlords and gun-toting girl revolutionaries and armies out of control.  But of course it is also a region with a long, rich, complicated history; natural landscapes encompassing highest mountains, wettest forest, driest desert; and many, many other peoples than these icons of violence. Among the many people who live here are farmers, poets, heroes, mothers, teachers--far more likely to be peaceful than ferocious.  They have a common high-altitude homeland, and share all the vulnerability of the world's mountain peoples and places.

Mountains create distinctive natural environments and shape unique human living spaces. The physical stresses of altitude and terrain are part of the distinctiveness of mountains as homelands. Mapping the cultural landscapes of High Asia reveals an extraordinary diversity of mountain-dwelling groups.  Rugged refuges, mountains have long been harbors for displaced peoples crowded out of more productive plains areas by stronger competitors.  High Asia's mountains shelter a great variety of peoples who retreated to the safer highlands, whether 500 years or 5 days ago seeking a haven from political and economic processes dominated by plainsmen and other powerful outsiders.

The United Nations' Declaration of 2002 as The Year of the Mountains acknowledges this distinctiveness, and seeks to bring attention and assistance to mountain peoples.




This exhibit honors High Asia's peoples, appreciates the lives they make for themselves in some of the world's most challenging environments, and celebrates the mountains themselves: highest, greatest, most beautiful on the planet.

The exhibit seeks to present a region through the eyes of travelers and residents who have seen for themselves the beauty and complexity of High Asia, and whose camera lenses are our eyes, so that we too may glimpse its diverse wonders.


This exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Barbara and Galen Rowell, extraordinary photographers and global citizens who used their art to create understanding and awaken appreciation of the beautiful and vulnerable worlds of the earth, including High Asia.