Tibetan monks offer music, sand painting and a window on their culture

By David Nicholson, Daily Press, August 5, 2010

Hampton, VA (USA) -- Each summer the region gets a glimpse into an exotic, ancient world with the arrival of a group of Tibetan monks in residence at The American Theatre in Hampton.

The monks have an American base in Atlanta though their actual home is in Southern India, where they've taken up residence since being expelled from Tibet by China. During their annual weeklong visit, they construct an elaborate sand painting in an intricate mandala design, perform music and dance and spread the word about their culture and their plight.

One of the highlights of the week that ends Sunday is the construction of the mandala on the stage of the theater. Typically four monks work on the sand painting throughout the day. The theme of this year's painting is wisdom. On Saturday afternoon, the painting is dismantled and the sand is deposited in the bay to suggest the impermanance of the world and to carry a message of wisdom out into the world through the waters.

The week also includes a lecture, screening of a film about Tibet and tonight's performance of Tibetan music and dance.

"They're not trained singers and dancers but they've inherited all of this folklore," says Hampton Arts Director Michael Curry. "It's very vibrant and very alive." Curry brings them back each year "to keep the culture alive and to give people a taste of an ancient culture and a window on their world."

"It's very peaceful and meditative," he says. "People love it. They come and sit for hours and watch the monks create the mandala."

Want to go?

Here's a schedule of weekend events for the nine Buddhist monks who are in residence at The American Theatre in Hampton. All events are free except for tonight's performance and the Sunday night screening.


10 a.m. to 6 p.m. — Construction of the Sand Mandala

8 p.m. — "Sacred Music/Sacred Dance" performance. All seats $25


10 a.m. to noon — Completion of the Sand Mandala

1 p.m. — "The Symbolism of the Mandala," free lecture

2 p.m. — Closing ceremonies, followed by the procession to the water and pouring of the sands into the water.


7 p.m. — "Tibet: A Light in the Darkness," film screening, followed by Q&A session with directors Patricia Keith and Sean Cassidy. All seats $10.

The American Theatre is located at 125 E. Mellen St, Hampton. Call 722-2787 for information or go online to http://www.hamptonarts.net.