The Healing of Mhusha the Butcher’s Daughter
Graphic novel charts an unsettling odyssey through a Tibetan dystopia
Hendriks’ black-and-white illustrations are stunning in their simplicity and his religious critique is razor-sharp. In Tibet, he delivers a heady mix of East Asian ink-wash art and the satirical bite of Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Hendriks’ novel is a dystopian vision of an independent Tibet torn apart by religious strife. The new nation amounts to little more than a collection of fiefdoms where rival Buddhist sects battle for power. Mhusha suffers from an ailment suppos- edly brought on by demonic possession. The local nobleman grants her permission to travel to the monastery in Dbu Li to visit a lama with special healing powers. Accompanied by her neighbour Lhaso, Mhusha goes in search of the monastery on what turns out to be an epic journey through a fragmented land.
Tibet wrong-foots the reader at every turn, thanks to Hendriks’ refusal to settle for simplification. He pokes fun at the West’s predilection for the esoteric side of Buddhism and launches a satirical attack on the lust for power among the Buddhist elite, exposing a society based on subjugation. The monks in Tibet are a far cry from the peace-loving, ever-smiling Dalai Lama.
As rulers, they demonstrate an exasperating inability to act, their sole solution to social problems being to chant Om Mani Padme Hum another several hundred times. Hendriks also weaves the sexism among Tibetan Buddhists into his narrative, some of whom even deny the humanity of women. Yet at the same time the book is an unashamed ode to the unspoiled natural landscape of Tibet, featur- ing exquisite illustrations of its endless mountain ranges.
With Tibet: The Healing of Mhusha the Butcher’s Daughter, newly founded publisher Scratch Books presents an impressively documented, hard-hitting yet humorous fable that calls the West to account for its romanticised view of Tibet.