This is Ani Tenzin Choezim. She left Tibet when she was 11 and went to Kathmandu, where she joined the Keydong Thuk-che Choeling Nunnery in Kathmandu, Nepal. She's working on a mandala, a sand painting used for prayer, contemplation, and healing, at Trinity College. Sometimes she would sit up and look like she was really tired of the whole thing. Then she would give a huge smile and go back to work.
According to Melissa R. Kerin, assistant professor of art history, Washington and Lee University,who gave a lecture as part of Trinity's mandala project, "Tradition Changing Women, Women Changing Tradition: The Interface of Tibetan Nuns and the Sacred Art of Sand Mandala Making,” making sand mandalas was a practice restricted to well-educated male monastics until recently.
In 1993, Kerin went to the nunnery and watched the nuns as they learned to create the precise and exquisite geometric designs. "These nuns were starting to change that tradition of exclusion, and in turn the august tradition of maṇḍala making changed these nuns’ lives.”
I spoke to one of the nuns, who told me that their main work is house-keeping, but they have a strong inner practice -- "Practice is strong here," she said, pointing to her heart. Making mandalas is an outer practice, she said.
"While the critique of patriarchy and the revisioning of Buddhist thought and practice so that it is no longer informed by patriarchal bias is a political, ethical, and spiritual struggle that is essential and ongoing, it must never overshadow commitment to Buddhist practice." bell hooks