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Towards the last two months of my last visit to India in the spring of 2012, I encountered the Tibetan community in exile in India experiencing painful news of their people self-immolating in fire one after another in China-occupied Tibet. My experiences in the past visits in India (drawing a cremation site in Varanasi, documenting fire pits, cremation alters, and contemplating on life and death around fire) synchronized with this particular movement, an extreme way of ‘offering’ their bodies to ‘fire’ for asking freedom and peace.I could not help drawing large and small drawings as emotional response and with a sense of mourning.

After coming back to Vancouver, the self-immolation kept happening and I felt that my personal and professional task is not finished.

I have come back to India to continue to document and draw under the same theme. tomoyoihaya@hotmail.com

25 November 2014

for Dolma Tso; detail of drawing in progress



Thinking of Dolma Tso who was arrested and given a sentence of three years in prison on false murder charge.  All she did was to have helped lifting up Kunchok Tseten's body after he had self immolated.

4 October 2014

For Kunchok

For Kunchok, 42 yrs old, who self immolated on September 16th in Gade County, Golog, Amdo, Tibet.

He set himself on fire besides the local police station
in protest against Chinese policy in Tibet.
The flame was doused by local people and he was carried into the local hospital. The news says he is in great pain. It is not certain if he will survive or not.

Family fear
if he survives, the authorities will take him away and
if he does not survive, the authorities will not return his body to his family either.

This is a reality of life in the Land of Snows.
Mountains are dug
Rivers are contaminated
Animals are dying
People live in the cage, where they can not fly freely
Note. The news did not come out to the exile side till October 4th due to the communication clampdown by
Chinese authorities.

17 September 2014

For Lhamo Tashi

For Lhamo Tashi, 22 year old student who set fire to himself outside a security office in Tsoe city, Amdo at midnight on September 17.

By the time his family who live in Drukdo village reached the police in Tsoe, his body had been cremated and only ashes was returned to his family.

This drawing does not capture your pure heartedness  and honesty that I can feel from the photo of you, but I offer this to you as my prayers.

8 May 2014

For Phakpa Gyalsten

For Phakpa Gyalsten who died in protest against Chinese mining activities in Tongbar town of Zogang County in Chamdo, Tibet on May 8.

He climbed onto a high building at the town center, and called out for Tibetan freedom. When attempts were made to stop him, he stabbed himself twice and jumped off the building.

he had told local people that he would do something to express the Tibetans’ collective opposition to the mining activities in the area,

Survived by his pregnant wife and 3 children

15 April 2014

For Thinley Namgyal


Brother Thinley,
One night, a few days after your passing on April 15, I looked at your picture again.
A painful picture of you in flame on the slope of dry soil.

I realized you wore your Chuba, the traditional dress of your culture
to show that you are Tibetan at your last moment of this life.

To show that your heart and dignity are not to be conquered by anybody.

For Thinley Namgyal

For Thinley Namgyal, 32 yrs old, who self immolated near Khangsar village, Tawu district, Kardze, Kham, Tibet on April 15 2014.

Picture of him smiling at a cafe and painful ones of him in burning protest came out from Tibet.

Such a painful non-violence act, painful to see you going like this. Painful to know that you were born and had lived in such a world where you had to choose the extreme act.

May stream of light cool down your body and you cross a bridge safely.