Daughters of Wisdom
Director of Photography: Gena Konstantinakos
Situated on the Eastern Tibetan plateau north of the Himalayas, at an altitude of 14,000 feet, the Nangchen district of Kham is home to an estimated 60,000 subsistence farmers and nomadic herding families. Their way of life has changed little in over 2,000 years, and for most it is a life of illiteracy, poverty and hunger.
In Nangchen, it has traditionally been a high honor for a family to have a son become a monk, granting him the privilege to serve the community as a scholar and spiritual leader, and to transcend the hardships of everyday life.
But to have a daughter become a nun has been considered a burden for a family, as she can no longer be married off in exchange for livestock, or bear children who can become workers on the family farm.
Though there are many examples of women of great spiritual attainment and enlightenment throughout Tibetan history, within in the socio-economic realities of daily life of Nangchen, it was believed that to educate a woman was a waste of valuable resources.
Now, for the first time, the women of Nangchen are being given the chance to change the course of their lives, and to continue their rich spiritual legacy. Built with their own hands and always expanding, the Kala Rongo Monastery is home to nearly 300 nuns who study and practice full-time, creating new opportunities for themselves and for the community they serve.
Daughters of Wisdom is an intimate portrait of these nuns, who are receiving unprecedented educational and religious training, and preserving their rich cultural heritage even as they slowly reshape it.
Some shy, some outspoken, all committed to the often difficult life they have chosen, the nuns graciously allowed our camera a never-before-seen glimpse into their vibrant spiritual community and insight into their extraordinary lives.