Bhutan exhibition opens

‘Bhutan: Gross National Happiness’
East-West Center Gallery
John A. Burns Hall, 1601 East-West Road
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays Feb. 25 to May 27, 2018. Closed April 1.
Admission: Free

At a time when happiness in the United States has hit an all-time low, this exhibition examines a culture that measures its success in Gross National Happiness, rather than economic indicators.

Photographs taken between 1991 and 2006 by Kauai-based photographer and filmmaker John Wehrheim capture Bhutan’s people in everyday life, accompanied by a display of textiles, Buddhist ritual items, and utilitarian objects to add dimension and color to the exhibition. A traditional sand mandala—a visual representation of the Himalayan Buddhist cosmos—will be created on site by visiting Bhutanese monks during the first week of the exhibit.

Sandwiched between India and China, Bhutan is one of the world’s least known and most sparsely populated countries. About the size of Switzerland, with a population of 800,000 beneath the towering peaks of the eastern Himalayan mountains, Bhutan was never conquered or colonized.

The country is blessed with peace, prosperity, and an ancient culture that is still alive and vibrant. Bhutan’s fourth monarch, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, led his people from absolute monarchy to a democracy guided by the principle that Gross National Happiness better measures success than Gross National Product.

The king aimed to balance the country’s economic needs with environmental preservation and traditional values, founded on the Buddhist principles that all life is sacred and all living beings are interdependent. The Four Pillars of Gross National Happiness are: Environmental Preservation, Preserving and Promoting Culture, Good Governance, and Balanced Economic Development.


Every Sunday
Guided gallery tours starts at 3 p.m. (no tours April 8 and May 27)

Feb. 25
Gala opening of exhibiton includes reception, ritual for the initiation of the sand mandala, and walk-through by exhibition photographer John Wehrheim; 2 to 3:30 p.m.

March 4
“Women in Bhutan: Past, Present and Future”: Illustrated talk by EWC alumna Thinley Choden, social entrepreneur and development consultant/specialist; 2 to 3 p.m.

March 18
“Measuring What Matters—GNH & Other Innovative Economic Indicators in Bhutan and Beyond”: Illustrated talk by EWC alumnus Carl Polley, PhD, instructor, Kapi‘olani Community College; 2 to 3 p.m.

April 8
Film: “Happy”: According to scientists, surfers and rickshaw drivers, everything you know about happiness is wrong. Directed by Roko Belic, 2011, 75 minutes; 2 to 3 p.m.

April 15
“Music in Bhutan: Himalayan Connections”: Illustrated talk by Anna Stirr, PhD, Associate Professor of Asian Studies, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa; 2 to 3 p.m.

April 29
“Bhutan: Economy, Culture, and Gross National Happiness”: Illustrated talk by two current EWC degree fellows from Bhutan, Mindu Lham and Dechen Wangmo; 2 to 3 p.m.

May 6
“Bhutan and the Buddhist Concept of Happiness”: Illustrated talk by John Wehrheim; 2 to 3 p.m.

May 27
Film: “Travellers and Magicians”: Bored with life in his tiny village, a Bhutanese official infatuated with American culture dreams of visiting the United States. Directed by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, 2003, 108 minutes; 2 to 4 p.m.

More information: 808.944.7177 or visit