The population of the Kingdom of Lo, now Mustang is 9000, and the people are Thakalis, Gurung or Tibetan. Most live near the Kali Gandaki River, 2800–3900m above sea level. Due to tough conditions and low temperatures, many migrate south into central Nepal for the winter months.
Mustang was once an independent Kingdom. The monarchy ceased to exist in 2008, but the current King is still recognized and respected by locals. The last King (raja or gyelpo) is Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista, now 77 years old.
A painting of the King will be featured in the art exhibition. His lineage can be traced directly back to Ame Pal, the warrior who founded this Buddhist kingdom in 1380. Ame Pal oversaw the founding and building of much of the Lo and the Mustang capital of Lo Manthang. Religiously, Upper Mustang is primarily Buddhist, although the influence of Hinduism and Bonpo (a syncretic religion with its origins in 10th century Tibet) is clear. As a result, animalistic and shamanistic traditions are still evident, such as the placing of dog or ram skulls over doorways as protection.
Upper Mustang has been described as a “thumb-like part of Nepal extending into Tibet”, and takes on many of the characteristics of the landscape typically associated with the Tibetan Plateau. The landscape is bare and stark, often hard, rocky, and unsuitable for farming. Strong winds ravage the plains and valleys everyday from about midday onwards, coating everything in dust.