Tibetan monks share art forms in Winona (video)
WINONA — Tibetan monks singing, dancing, sand painting; an unusual and distinctively interesting sight in Winona. Through an artist-in-residency program and part of the Page Series at Saint Mary’s University, nine monks shared the preservation of their art forms with a variety of activities.
The five-day event began with an opening ceremony Sept. 17 and closed Sept. 21. An evening performance featured multi-phonic singing in which the monks simultaneously intone three notes of a chord using traditional instruments, including a 10-foot-long dung-chen horn. Resplendent in their rich brocade costumes, masked dancers performed the Dance of the Sacred Snow Lion.
Throughout the week, the public was invited to watch as the monks created an Amitayus sand mandala painting using colored sands and the traditional chakpur, or metal funnel. The hushed audience watched as intricate designs rooted in the Tibetan heritage were meticulously and painstakingly designed grain by grain of sand.
Visitors were invited to contribute to a community sand painting whose design was inspired by locals and represented the colors of the region, from corn fields to the Mississippi River. They were able to participate in and explore the rich history of the art.
Patrick Grace, general manager of the university's Performance Center, came upon information about the Tibetan monks at an event consortium.
"I was immediately drawn to them," Grace said. "Since we are beginning the university’s centennial year, we felt this was an excellent way for the Performance Center to begin the celebration."
Citing the desire to be inclusive and to highlight the many layers of cultural exchanges the university offers, "Tibet: Magic Land of Spiritual Wonders" drew hundreds of people.
"We had a great response to this unique presentation," Grace said. "We saw many individuals, and we also had many schools from the region view this as well."
Deb Nahrgang, director of communication at Saint Mary’s said, "This was an opportunity to peek into an ancient way of life and its art form. We were pleased that the community, staff and students embraced this wholeheartedly."
The Drepung Loseling Monastery was established near Lhasa, China, in 1416, and at its zenith, housed more than 10,000 monks.
Following a holocaust in 1959, some 300 monks escaped to India. They re-established the monastery in south India, and the population now is more than 3,000. Each year, hundreds of Tibetan refugees, many of them children, make the dangerous journey across the Himalayas to escape Chinese-occupied Tibet to join the monastery. These young monks are the future of this great, but endangered, tradition.
The monks have been touring North America for 20 years to support their monastery and to preserve and demonstrate their Tibetan cultural traditions.