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210 Pittsboro Street, Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC  27599-6210
(919) 962-2091   FAX: (919) 962-2279


For immediate use

March 2, 2001 -- No. 97

Media briefing: 10 a.m. Tuesday

March 6, Ackland Art Museum

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

South Columbia Street

Buddhist monks to demonstrate, explain making of colorful sand mandala

Two Buddhist monks will demonstrate their religion's practice of constructing mandalas with millions of grains of brightly colored sand, while the museum's Barbara Matilsky explains the artistic and religious significance of the practice.

The monks, who speak English well though with accents, also will speak. They are the Venerable Tenzin Thutop and the Venerable Tenzin Deshek (address as "TEN-zin TOO-top" and "TEN-zin DESH-eck") and they are visiting from the Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, N.Y. The monks and Matilsky will be available after the program for individual interviews.

Reporters and photographers can get a close-up look at the monks' work with sand and small tools, as well as distance views of the installation so far.

The public may observe the monks' work through March 21 -- the tentative date for completion of the mandala. Afterward, the mandala will be displayed through June 8, when it will be disassembled in a public religious ceremony, symbolizing the transience of life and the futility of trying to hold onto material objects.

The Ackland opens to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays. The event on Tuesday will be a private session for media only, although some school and tour groups may visit during the session.

Creation of the 5.5-foot mandala is part of "Buddhist Art and Ritual from Nepal and Tibet," a two-year exhibit that opened Feb. 25. The exhibit features 20 paintings, sculptures and other sacred objects on loan from museums with significant collections of Himalayan art.

For details, and to download a photo of how the mandala will look when it is finished, see or visit

VISUALS: The monks wear crimson and gold robes. The Medicine Buddha -- the type of mandala to be assembled at the Ackland -- includes brilliant purples, reds and greens and represents Buddha's ability to diagnose suffering in the human mind and offer remedies. Photographers should prepare for dim lighting inside the museum. Flash photography and TV lights will be allowed.

CONTENT: While the monks work, Matilsky, curator of exhibitions including "Buddhist Art and Ritual," will describe their artistic techniques and materials, as well as the religious meanings of different parts of this particular design and Buddhist sand mandalas in general. She also will describe the current exhibit, which includes a Buddhist altar that the visiting monks use for daily worship. Matilsky and the monks will explain why the ancient, secret practice of mandala making was not shared with the rest of the world until 1988.

PARKING: A limited number of spaces will be reserved for the media until 11:15 a.m. in the Swain visitors' lot off Cameron Avenue. Media representatives should drive to the northwest corner of the lot, near Columbia Street, look for the coned spaces, move the cones and park. Walk west to Columbia Street, then north toward Franklin Street. The Ackland will be on your right.

DIRECTIONS: From the east, take N.C. 54 to campus and turn right onto Country Club Road at the stone university sign. The road crosses Raleigh Street and becomes Cameron Avenue. After passing the Old Well on the right, take the next right into the Swain lot.

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News Services contacts: Print, L.J. Toler, 919-962-8589; broadcast, Karen Moon, 919-962-8595