In 2008 I trekked the Annapurna trail in Nepal with my artist friend Masha Gambarov. These are some drawings that she did after returning home. The following is her artist’s statement.

These four mixed media drawings were inspired by a 2008 trek along the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. I had been to the region before, and had studied Tibetan Buddhism both academically and as part of a personal practice for years, but it was only after venturing into these mountains that I truly felt how rooted the Tibetan Buddhist tradition is in this rugged yet peaceful landscape. Somehow what I had experienced of Buddhist teachings was informing the way I saw the mountains around me, and the mountains were simultaneously teaching me of the beliefs and traditions flourishing among them.

Something in these mountains blurs the line between faith, tradition, and the land that nourishes them.  Perhaps it is the dizzyingly thin air, the peaks forever soaring on the horizon, or the sparse settlements reminding the trekker how long humans have had a relationship with this land. I incorporated prayer flags into these pieces (in some cases collage elements of real flags from the area) as I cannot think of a better symbol of this relationship. The sacred mountains, combined with the faith and devotion of those who come to hang these flags, transform these colorful pieces of fabric into potent and universal prayers. 

The drawings are intended as portraits of the mountains themselves. The ranges can seem intimidating, vast, and otherworldly—like something that would only make sense in a dream. At the same time, their snows can somehow sustain cozy villages and serve as a stage for strikingly ordinary and down-to-earth experiences, such as that of the cold horse wondering what he is doing at a mountain pass almost eighteen thousand feet above sea level. What I sought to capture here is how these contradictions can manage to make perfect sense in such a magically beautiful place, and can illuminate the transformative relationship between land, people, and faith.

—Masha Gambarov

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