Over the last 15 years I have developed a very deep friendship with a group of Buddhist nuns nestled in the heart of Zanskar (a valley in the Himalayas). These links, I told them for the first time in a film, “Sowers of Joy”. Today, the story has been transformed into a photographic narrative of the same name.
I share life experiences, glances filled with joy and hope, a message tinted with sisterhood and wisdom.
– Caroline Riegel
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Here at last ! A beautiful book in tribute to the « Sowers of Joy ». It is a collection of seeds to be sown to the winds, a photographic immersion, both poetic and intimate with remarkable women. The idea has been germinating for 15 years ! In fact, the first photos in the book are a reminder, in black and white, of the Zanskar of old that I came to know during my first winter in 2004-2005. But, it is a modern and colorful immersion in the four seasons of this enchanting valley that I offer up to you.
Zanskar ? You know, a small Himalayan valley in the Ladakh region in north-western India. Perched at 3,700 m (12,139 ft), a dozen Buddhist nuns live a life of incredible harmony in the small village of Tungri. In 2012 we discovered India together, an extraordinary adventure turned into a documentary film « The Sowers of Joy ». It was aired on France 5 and won many awards. In 2015, the nuns discovered France, a journey whose success exceeded our wildest dreams.
You were so numerous to have been touched by these women ! So many to thank me for sharing our crazy friendship, of making their Joy accessible. Your encouragements, your letters and e-mails, your support of our projects have been an unlimited source of energy and happiness. You have also made known your desire to not forget the nuns, but, even more, to see them again. They, as well, have not forgotten a single moment of their fabulous journey in the fall of 2015.
Thanks to Thigspa Association, numerous projects have taken shape at the nunnery in Tungri, bringing a minimum of comfort. But essentially these achievements (a school, cells for new nuns, a water reservoir, solar energy…) ensure the continued existence of this corner of the world, frail custodian of an ancient wisdom. Today, this is the challenge and the raison d’être of my involvement at the side of the Sowers.
This book comes from deep within me. It offers multiple journeys. We discover the character of this unique community and its astonishing sisterhood (an intimate journey) and the superb beauty of their land (a journey through sublime scenery). At the foot of the Great Himalayan Range, the hostile environment strengthens hearts, embracing at the same time spirituality and beauty in an uncompromising Nature. Lacking the superfluous, the Sowers are in contact with the essence of the soul, the awareness of Happiness.
It is this that I’ve tried to create in this unique object. The words layer a discreet and purified emotion on the beauty of the images. I wanted an object that would take us away from screens. An object that is cherished, touched, caressed, passed along, offered and shared. A beautiful object that brings people together, as does the enchanting laughter of the Sowers.
But rest assured, if you feel the need to hear the nuns’ wonderful laughter,a film is in the works. t will be shown on ARTE and will of course make the rounds of the festivals. It tells the story of the last winter I spent with the Sowers just as the pandemic was breaking. It offers an intimate and profound interlude in the daily life of the nuns in the heart of winter, in the heart of happiness. It also contains several surprises that will not go unnoticed !
The book therefore accompanies the film, or perhaps it is the reverse ! But I sincerely believe that first I wanted to create a book, as a memory, as a present that we treasure.
Matthieu Ricard, who the nuns met in 2015 andRob Linrothe, a distinguished professor of Tibetan Art in the United States, a specialist in, and lover of, Zanskar, both offered me, a magnificent preface, written in their own language. Both are a declaration of love of these women, their land, their life and their mountains. The book is bilingual, French and English, first to expand the reading of it to those who are the most involved, but also to all those interested in Zanskar, Buddhism and the Tibetan culture.
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