The Festival is a collaborative effort.
When the Festival of Tibetan Arts and Rituals launched two years ago in 2010, partnering with SUNY Plattsburgh, it was opened mostly for students and faculty. For 2012, the Festival has partnered with the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts to incorporate the community and locals.
Himalaya Restaurant and TibetAsian owner Tenzin Dorjee, originally from Bhutan now calls Plattsburgh his home, having lived here for the past four years. Dorjee opened TibetAsian, a Himalayan gift and handicrafts store three and half years ago, but it wasn’t until 2011 that he and his wife, Yengchen, opened Himalaya Restaurant for business. They serve Nepalese, Bhutanese, and Himalayan cuisine.
The Dorjee’s, along with the anthropology department at SUNY Plattsburgh, put on the Festival of Tibetan Arts and Rituals in 2011 for two weeks, and in 2010, for one week, and after seeing the great welcoming from the college community, they have decided to involve the North Country locals. Now in 2012, the Festival of Tibetan Arts and Rituals is being sponsored by the Dorjee’s, SUNY Plattsburgh, Clinton Community College, and the NCCCA.
The Festival will kick-off April 5 with the opening exhibition in the NCCCA Main Gallery and conclude April 28 with a ceremony on the banks of the Saranac River in downtown Plattsburgh.
“It’s on a much larger scale, usually there’s one monk and a few artists but this year we have seven monks coming and a lot more activities, workshops, and seminars,” says Dorjee.
The Festival kicked off April 5, 2012 and will be in exhibition until April 28, 2012. The initial opening of the art exhibition had a good reception added Dorjee. The festival includes a photo display, butter sculptures, and Thangka presentation among a few.
“We serve health and comfort food, and that’s catching on all over the place."
The successes of Himalaya Restaurant and gift store are in large part due to the faithful clientele, adds Dorjee. “We do have a steady, loyal crowd of customers who are here very frequently because we serve health and comfort food, and that’s catching on all over the place,” Dorjee says.
Dorjee says the community’s initial reception of different cuisine has been very welcoming and positive. “It’s time for people to open up. Even if they’re not ready, at some stage they will be,” Dorjee says.
Art is a big part of Tibetan culture.
Visitors of the restaurant and shop travel from different locations just to get their hands on hand-made pieces of jewelry or to try the Himalayan cuisine. “We have a steady stream coming from Montreal, the Burlington area, and we also have a lot of people from the North Country coming from Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, and as far up as Malone,” says Dorjee. “So there are a number of people who are from the Adirondack area that are coming.”
Given the positive reception the Festival has gotten the past two years, Dorjee believed it was time to make this festival a much grander event hence the collaboration with the NCCCA.
Some activities include film screenings, Thangka exhibitions, Cham dance exhibitions, prayers, meditation sessions, demonstrations of Tibetan cultural music, and so much more.
A portrait of the Dalai Lama watches the art display.
According to the 2012 Festival guide, a Thangka “is a Tibetan silk painting with embroidery, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene or mandala of some sort.” The butter sculptures are made with colored buttered, molded by hand and usually represents deities, flowers, and animals. They’re usually used as offerings and placed in shrines or altars. For the Tibetan cultural music presentation, Tsawa touring monks will demonstrate traditional Tibetan Musical instruments and the music that is known in the culture according to the NCCCA website.
The Festival’s exhibitions and presentations are not just exclusive to the Plattsburgh area. The Twasa monks are doing different presentations such as performances of the traditional Cham dances and educational shows in Clinton Community College and at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt.
Although the initial response with the college students was a success in 2010 and 2011, the sponsors of the event decided to involve the North Country to give them a glimpse into a culture and way of life they are not accustomed to. This year’s response from the community has been a success thus far, according to Dorjee.
“I would say we cannot expect a lot of people [for the opening year], this is the first time the festival is being done so whatever people come is good because these kinds of things take time, and it happens over a period of years,” says Dorjee.
As far as what future plans the Festival has in store for years to come, Dorjee says everything depends on the community’s involvement and support. He adds that if more community members step up and take on leadership roles then the Festival will return in the future.
“The organizers whole purpose and our hope is that more people are willing to participate in years to come. It’s something we don’t have in Plattsburgh. The closest example we can get is Burlington; they have so many festivals every year,” says Dorjee.
SUNY Plattsburgh student, Melissa Olate was among the attendants who supported the kick-off of this year’s festival. As an art major and cultural enrichment enthusiast, Olate appreciates all the intricate details and hard work that goes into the making of such beautiful art.
“Living in San Francisco for a couple of years I think really influenced me and helped me appreciate different cultures and customs,” says Olate. “Also, being from Queens where there is so much diversity and coming to Plattsburgh...it’s nice to have showcases of a completely different culture.”
As an art major, Olate adds she appreciates all the effort that went into the art pieces.
“I always make my way down to TibetAsian and pick up a few artifacts before each break because things like these are so beautiful and rare, even in the City,” added Olate.
“Hopefully, people will realize the value of it.”
The Tibetan and Himalayan influence in the North Country is something of value because aside from Himalayan-influenced restaurants in New York City, Himalaya Restaurant in Plattsburgh is the closest one aside from the ones in Montreal.
“I hope that people will come and enjoy the benefits of having this here because if this was arranged in the City you would have to wait in line and pay a lot of money to actually get in,” says Dorjee. Hopefully people will realize the value of it.”
What cultures entice you the most and why?