Yann Rollo van de Vyver: When Sherpas show the power of reality?

- through Sophie Solere

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Passionate about art, the Redonnais Yann Rollo van de Vyver turned to photography to capture moments and emotions. While presenting an exhibition on women of the world, in Kathmandu, the Breton met the Vendéan Lama Jigmé Thrinlé Gyatso, who took him to the monasteries founded by the Grand Master Sengdrak Rinpoche, on the Nepal-Tibetan border. In the book Himalaya-Nepal, Hermitages in Sherpa Country, the photographer testifies to the benevolence of the inhabitants and the tranquility of the place. In the summits, he receives a lesson in impermanence through the resilience of the Sherpa people, after the earthquakes of 2015.

From the veranda, at the top of the large mound called "The Mountain" by the inhabitants of the Pays de Redon, the view is breathtaking over the Goule d'eau, the confluence of the Vilaine and the Oust. Around us, in their pots, grow a Himalayan orchid and a bonsai ficus religiosa overhanging a small Buddha. Yann entrusts us with meditating regularly in this luminous space, at sunrise. Upon entering the photographer's living room, a rich decor presents itself to us. A Ming vase sits alongside a Nepalese Tara and a little Jesus from Sofia. On the table, a miniature obelisk stands next to a book by Alexandra David-Néel, In the heart of the Himalayas.

The artistic appeal

"I became interested in the Himalayas, and in Nepal in particular, when I was 12, through philately," says Yann, sitting comfortably in an armchair. Shirt, tuxedo waistcoat, boots, the Breton, who is approaching his 70th birthday, is elegantly dressed. While recounting his memories, he raises his left hand, revealing signet rings on his fingers: “To enrich my collection of stamps, I sent a note to all the embassies in Paris. I had few returns. But the Embassy of Nepal in France sent me a packet of stamps. I then said to myself that bigger is the country I would visit first”.

But life decides otherwise. Yann loses his father very early. To make up for his absence and meet family needs, he began a career in the civil service, then married. "I had many lives," he admits. "But I've always been interested in art." In the corner of the room facing him, the Redonnais points to a painting by Marie-Suzanne Marotte, representing the Virgin and the child Jesus. “I was a model for this painter who taught me a lot. Later, I opened a gallery, before getting into art myself”. Painting, sculpture, photography, Yann dabbles in different disciplines. La photo, which allows him to produce quickly, is his preference. After taking part in a few workshops, he continues his practice on his own: “I'm quite a wild person,” he murmurs with a smile. “In photography, you need patience to be able to capture a light, a moment. »

In the privacy of a tulku

In 2006, he was able to exercise his eye in the colors of Asia, during a stay in China, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Delighted, he decided to go to Nepal in 2008. Two years later, he met Lama Jigmé Thrinlé Gyatso in Kathmandu, where the Breton exhibited portraits of women from around the world. “He invited me to follow him to the monasteries founded by his master, Sengdrak Rinpoche, in Sherpa country. After a first trip, Yann and Thrinlé decided to write a book about these communities. "In all, I went to Nepal eight times, four of them just for this book," says the photographer.

With a lama at his side, Yann can easily approach families. In particular that of Tenzin Dorje, the nephew of Ve Sengdrak Rinpoche. He also follows the tulku, reincarnation of the great master in his intimacy. "You can imagine the load on his shoulders," says the photographer, who has wonderful memories of the Sherpa community. “Bakhang is for me the most beautiful village in the world. All the facades of the houses are oriented towards the Himalayan chain. The air is pure there. There is no noise: you only hear very soft domestic sounds, like those of chickens and goats. »

Sherpas, or peace in the face of adversity

The Breton is full of praise for the villagers. “Of Tibetan origin, the Sherpas have been present in Nepal for several centuries. Hard at work, they have a strong ability to bounce back. " Yann saw it with his own eyes, after the 2015 earthquake: "They immediately sorted the rubble to recover the beams, the sheets, the boards... A week later, it had already become a relatively comfortable village again. . I didn't see anyone complaining. The inhabitants were smiling, in a new life. They have integrated the notion of impermanence”.

“We are afraid of impermanence and have lost our ability to deal with adversity. »

A striking reality that Yann also encountered in a hospital in Kathmandu, where he saw people sleeping in the corridors, others dying around him. All this leads him to relativize Western mentalities: “We are frightened by impermanence and have lost our ability to face adversity”.

Raised in the Catholic tradition and sensitive to Buddhist values, Yann does not consider himself a believer. But he remains convinced of the interdependence of all things. Sensitive to environmental issues, he traveled to Bhutan in 2008 to report on this small kingdom which plans to become the first 100% organic country in the world.

In the same logic, but in a completely different style, he presents to us, in his office upstairs, his work of male nudes, which earned him an international prize for a series of photos on the man and the tree. . « For both, we use the same terms of trunks, veins, roots. In the images, human limbs and branches are one. He smiles: "It's an original way for me to represent interdependence."

photo of author

Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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