Sonam Dolma Brauen

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Sonam Dolma Brauen
200805-sonamdolma 188.jpg
Sonam Dolma Brauen at her studio in 2008
Sonam Dolma

(1953-01-30)30 January 1953
Other namesSonam Dolma Wangmo
EducationArt School Bern
OccupationContemporary painter, sculptor
Years active1982
Spouse(s) Martin Brauen

Sonam Dolma Brauen (born 1953) is a Tibetan-Swiss contemporary painter and sculptor.


Life and career

Early life

Sonam Dolma was born in Kongpo, Tibet (today Kongpo, Gongbo'gyamda County, Nyingchi Prefecture, Tibetan Autonomous Region, China), the daughter of Kunsang (Mola) Wangmo, [1] a former Bhikkhuni , and Tsering. The family left eastern Tibet when the 14th Dalai Lama refuged in 1959 to Dharamshala in northern India, crossing the Himalayas on foot. Sonam's father and her younger sister died on the journey. [2] [3] Sonam grew up in nearby Dharamsala, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, during the Sino-Indian War. In autumn 1962, the family had to move to Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, where Sonam took a job waitressing in a Tibetan restaurant. One day she served tea to a Swiss from Bern, an ethnologist, fascinated by the Tibetan culture. They fell in love, and married, and soon after, Martin Brauen took Sonam and her mother Kunsang back with him to Switzerland: I would never have decided for myself to leave if Martin had not come and asked me to marry him. Settled in Bern, she learnt Swiss-German. Now, everywhere Sonam goes, she brings with her tsa tsa (small Votive offerings in the Mahāyāna Buddhism) that her parents carried out from Tibet: They make us remember. [4]


Sonam Dolma Brauen began her training as artist at the Art School Bern and was educated by Arthur Freuler, Leopold Schropp, Mariann Bissegger, and Serge Fausto Sommer. She moved to New York City in 2008, where she lived for four years [5] in Manhattan, New York City; her studio was located in Long Island City. [6] Thenafter she stayed for a while in the USA, in Korea, Italy and went back to Switzerland. [5]

Personal life

Married to the Swiss ethnologist Martin Brauen, Sonam Dolma's daughter Yangzom Brauen (born in 1981) is a Swiss-Tibetan actress, [7] writer ( Eisenvogel ) and director ( Who Killed Johnny ). Eisenvogel ("Iron Bird"), her daughter's 2009 novel, is dedicated to Sonam Dolma's mother Kunsang and her escape from Tibet. The book tells about Yangzom's youth and their common life in exile, and became a bestseller in German-speaking countries. It was later published in English as Across Many Mountains. [4] Sonam's son, Tashi Brauen, is also an artist. [7] [8]


Her paintings, sculptures and installations are exhibited in Germany, Italy, South Korea, Switzerland, USA and in Museum of Contemporary Tibetan Art, Netherlands. [6] [9]


The artist and one of her 2008 paintings 200805-sonamdolma 175.jpg
The artist and one of her 2008 paintings
Painting by Sonam Dolma Brauen, 2008 "visionary artists for tibet" exhibition 200805-sonamdolma 008.jpg
Painting by Sonam Dolma Brauen, 2008 "visionary artists for tibet" exhibition

Sonam Dolma Brauen's works is abstractly and has clear conceptions of her role as an “ethnic painter”, and is influenced of Buddhist concepts on her work. [10] Her paintings represent the Tibetan Contemporary art.


After moving to New York City, Brauen began working more with installations using materials and objects like used monk robes from Asia, plaster, empty ammunition shells. Provocative works utilize teeth and used ammunition in pieces that comment on contemporary society. Her installations express ongoing themes that preoccupy her: Machoism and its relation to power, money and war; and the political situation in her home country Tibet. [5]


The art scope magazine claims, one would think, given Dolma’s origins ... that her art would reflect overtly political or nationalist themes. Or that, being Tibetan-born, she would follow the traditional artistic mores of strict Buddhist iconography. Rather, Dolma’s wall-spanning acrylics and floor-spanning installations tackle a thoroughly rougher territory: the expanse of cultural folly and the crimes of emotion. [11]

Further reading

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  1. "Yangzom Brauen: Essen ein Geschenk" (in German). Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  2. "Swiss made in Hollywood". Der Landbote (in German). 3 July 2013. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  3. Heike Vowinkel (27 September 2009). "Drei Generationen Tibet". Die Welt (in German). Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  4. 1 2 Eisenvogel (Across Many Mountains) in: di Giovanni, Janine (7 March 2011). "Across Many Mountains: Escape from Tibet". The Daily Telegraph . Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 "Bio & Resume". Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  6. 1 2 "Portfolio Sonam Dolma Brauen". Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  7. 1 2 Nadia Weigelt (27 March 2008). "Auf dem Weg nach Hollywood: Tibet-Aktivistin Yangzom Brauen" (in German). n-tv . Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  8. "Diplom Bachelor 2010: Tashi Brauen" (in German). Institut Kunst, Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz (FHNW). 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  9. "Exhibitions". Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  10. Regina Höfer (November 2011). "Making Emptiness Visible: Sonam Dolma and Contemporary Tibetan Abstraction". modern art asia 11/2011. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  11. Clara Rose Thornton (November 2010). "SONAM DOLMA: Exploring inner mountains". art scope magazine November/December 2010 – New England's Culture Magazine. Archived from the original on 24 November 2014. Retrieved 24 November 2014.