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  • Writer's pictureCarol Wiebe

Sand Fantasy

Most of us are familiar with the Tibetan art of sand painting. Dul-tson-kyil-kho is an ancient tradition practiced by Lamas to reconsecrate the Earth, and everything upon it. Created in the form of a mandala, each sand painting is painstakingly and reverently constructed with fine colored sand.

Traditionally most sand mandalas are destroyed shortly after their completion. This is done as a metaphor of the impermanence of life. The sands are swept up and placed in an urn; to fulfill the function of healing, half is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while the remainder is carried to a nearby body of water, where it is deposited. The waters then carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.

I always enjoy studying artists in action, and I definitely support planetary healing. To that end, gaze upon one or two videos of this fascinating ceremony of creation/destruction for your own enlightenment. There are many more to be found. Let it also be said that Tibetans were not the only people to practice sand painting.

Ilana Yahav uses sand as her medium of expression, and manipulates it with her hands on top of a glass table. A video camera, positioned over the glass, throws an image of her “sand magic” onto a screen so that the audience can see her in action. The art is fluid and ever changing, often seeming like an animated movie rather than the recording of an interaction between hands and sand. Music accompanies the process, more for the audience than Ilana, who is well into the creative flow as she communes with her medium.

Ilana provides clips of a number of her sand performances. Access more here, and at a YouTube list. Watching the graceful and purposeful movement of her hands is quite mesmerizing. I must add a warning, however. If you do not have sufficient control over yourself, your reverie may be broken as you leap from your computer chair shouting “No!!!!!!!!!” when she obliterates a favorite image. I would suggest you watch Ilana perform in the safety of your own home, rather than risk censure or 9-1-1 calls from other computer users in public locations. I am sure Ilana would concur that having you dragged away for disturbing the peace was NOT her intention.

After finding Ilana Yahav, I ran into links showing the artistry of Hungarian Ferenc Cakó, whose live sand animation wowed the crowds at the 2003 Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival. Yahav also creates films using other materials and techniques, such as as puppets, clay, live painting, and paper-cutting. Information about his films can be viewed on his website, and they can be viewed on YouTube (i.e. Circle of Life, Genesis, and Old Castle.)

This is but a small introduction to a whole world of sand fantasy. It is delightful for me to contemplate the countless ways we human beings make art, and the diverse materials we use to serve our artistic longings.

To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour. ~William Blake

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