Half a century ago New Zealand welcomed its first Tibetan refugee, Thuten Kesang.
Now, he is releasing his autobiography, Tibet – The Home I Left Behind, which tells his remarkable life story beginning in Tibet and ending in Auckland’s North Shore.
“I been through a lot in life. This is an account of what I have been through,” Kesang said.
“It’s basically a human story,” he said. “It’s the story of me. Who I am. What I do.”
Kesang was born and raised in Tibet, but travelled by horseback to India to complete his education.
However, during the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Kesang suddenly found himself an orphan and a refugee in India.
After finishing his apprenticeship in printing, he emigrated to New Zealand on January 24, 1967.
Kesang can remember Auckland before its building-clustered skyline, when there was a toll on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and when there was a TV curfew.
When he first arrived, he lived in Auckland’s Mt Albert community.
Despite his excitment for a new adventure, he said he was left disappointed that ‘Mount’ Albert looked more like an “anthill”.
“To a Tibetan, a mountain is a mountain,” he laughs.
The now Beach Haven resident has his own printmaking business and has just celebrated his 46th wedding anniversary with his wife Gwen.
He also has two married daughters and three grandchildren.
“I don’t feel like an immigrant anymore, I have been here for 50 years,” he said.
Coincidently, a documentary film telling Kesang’s story is being screened at the New Zealand International Film Festival.
Directed by Robin Greenbery, Team Tibet: Home away from Home gives an account of Tibetan culture in exile through Kesang’s eyes.
Kesang said also hopes that through his story, people will glean a lot of information about what is going on in Tibet.
“We are not putting the book out there to make money. We just want to share the story,” he said. “It is my legacy.”
Attend the book launch, July 15, 2 pm till 4 pm at St Andrew’s Church Hall, Hinemoa St, Birkenhead. RSVP July 10. Contact 09 483 6066 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.