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.

9 March 2018

For Tsekho Tukchak March 7 2018

For Tsekho Tukchak, who self immolated on March 7th 2018 in Meruma township, Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet.

Tsekho, in his 40s, set himself on fire at around 5 pm in the town.  He died on spot.
According to the report,  he screamed 'Long life, Gyalwa Rinpoche' and 'Freedom for Tibet' while being engulfed in the flame.

His protest came three days ahead of the 59th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day (March 10th, 1959) and the 10th anniversary of the 2008 pan-Tibet uprising.  It is said that he carried his protest prior to the date to avoid the tightest security on March 10th.

He is survived by his mother, his wife, and two daughters.

26 January 2018

Crossing The Border

Crossing The Border  

Creeping in the nights, hiding in the days,
We reached the snow mountains after twenty nights.
The border was away by several days still.
The rugged terrain withered us to strains.

Over our head a bomber flew,
My children shrieked in fear,
I covered them under my bosom.
Exhaustion tore my limbs apart,
But my mind warned me.
We must go on or die here.
A daughter here, a son there,
A baby on my back,
We reached the snowfields.

Through many monstrous mountains we crawled,
Whose death-blankets often
covered travellers passing by.

In the middle of the white killing fields,
A heap of frozen corpses
Set out weakening spirit trembling.
Blotches of blood spattered the snow.
The army men must have crossed their path.
Our land has fallen to the red dragons.
We prayed the ‘Yishin Norbu’.
With hope in our hearts,
Prayers on our lips,
Hardly anything to eat,
with only ice to quench out thirst,
We crawled for nights together.

Then, one night, my daughter
complained about a burning foot.
She stumbled and rose again on her frost-bitten leg.

Peeled and slashed with deep bloody cuts,
She reeled and writhed in pain.
By the next day both her legs were severed.
Gripped by death all around,
I was a helpless mother.
‘Amala, save my brothers,
I shall rest here for a while’
Till I could no longer see her fading figure,
Till I could no longer hear her fainting wails,
I kept looking back in tears and agony.
My legs carried me, but my spirit remained with her.

Long after in exile, I can still see her
Waving her frost-bitten hands to me.
Eldest home must have been tough for her.
Every night I light a lamp for her,
And her brothers join me in prayer.

Poem by Tenzin Tsundue 

Tenzin Tsundue is a Tibetan poet born in exile in India, during the chaotic period of Tibetan refugee resettlement in the early seventies. He did his schooling in Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV), Pathlikuhl and later in Dharmasala.
Write to Tenzin Tsundue at: Note:  I owe much to this poem in process of making a mixed media installation completed in 2014 to 2016, which includes cut-out blue legs, symbolising crossing the snowy mountains to the free land, and cut-out blue arms, reaching to loved ones far beyond the borders or died in crossing the border. 

25 January 2018

The World's Third Pole

Our land
Ten thousands of glaciers
Hundreds of the snow-capped mountains
Origins of great rivers

Sacred water that has nourished pastures, animals, and us, humans for thousands of years

Glaciers are melting
Mountains and the earth are dug
Water is poisoned

And our pastures are fenced

Just as our lives


25 December 2017

For Kunbey, December 23 2017

For Kunbey, around 30 years old, who self immolated on December 23 2017 in Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet.

He set himself on fire near Kirti Monastery, which is known for many monks' self immolations in the past.  The video came out to the exile side shows him walking engulfed in the flame along with a recording of a woman's voice reciting a prayer ' May Gyalwa Rinpoche protect and bless him'.

His body was immediately taken by the security force soon after and admitted to the hospital around 10 pm.  He passed way around 5 a.m on the following day.
His body was cremated right away by the police and only a handful of ashes was returned to the family.

His parents, 5 siblings, and a wife whom he married one year ago are left behind.

It is said that his father is under detention by the police, being forced to cover the cost of the medical expenses while Kunbey spent his last some hours at the hospital.

May all the pains and darkness get eliminated from each of us, each community, society, country, and the earth so as nobody has to sacrifice his life like this.

29 November 2017

For Kusho Tengha November 26 2017

For Venerable Tengha, 63 yrs old monk, who self immolated on November 26 2017 in Karze, Kham, Tibet. 

According to a witness, he called for freedom for Tibet and return of Gyalwa Rinpoche while being engulfed in flame.  He died on site and the security force took his body right away.

He became a monk at very young age at Karze Monastery when his parents both passed away.
He was in charge of organising prayer sessions and rites in nearby villages and was a well respected figure by local people.

20 November 2017

Three kinds of water in Tibet

Ama la is from Tsang, Tibet. I have known her and her family for over 10 years.  

She escaped to India from Tibet in 1959 and is one of that first hardcore generation of Tibetan refugees  who had to undergo unimaginable hardships in order to be able to rebuild their lives in the new and unknown land of India. Even after the trauma of having to escape from their native homelands, so many of their generation died afterwards from illness, disease, malnutrition and grief.

She is the one of the beloved elderly Tibetans who taught me the value of sharing, kindness, strength and power of practice.  Despite enduring inconceivable hardships,   she maintained all beautiful human qualities till she passed away.

When I think of her, I think of the many stories and meals that she offered me. When I heard of her passing from across two great oceans,  the first story that came up in my mind was about water in Tibet:

Water in Tibet is better than milk in India.
There are three qualities of water in Tibet.
The first one is water from a glacier.
The second one is from a stream.
The third one is from a spring. 
Each water has healing property, especially one from a glacier.
By drinking it, a sick person gets healed.
All sources are sacred with spirits living within, 
so we shall not contaminate such water.

Ama la managed to return to Tibet in the 80s when the political situation in Tibet softened for a short period of time.
One of her children, who is now a monk with a Geshe degree, told me that the first thing she did when she saw a stream was to run to it and scoop up some water with her hands to drink it.  She was overjoyed.  

Only this one time could she go back to Tibet in almost 60 years in exile.  

Ama la a safe journey to the next. 
May mountains, glacier, rivers, streams, and every being in your homeland
remain clear and vital despite of destructions so as you can go back to drink water that heals again. 

アマラ(チベット語でお母さん)はチベットのツァン出身。彼女と 彼女の家族と知り合ってもう10年以上になります。

アマラは 1959年、中国共産党のラサ侵略、ダライ・ラマ法王の亡命を機にインドに逃れ 慣れない土地で苦汁の生活を強いられた チベット人一世のひとりです。

アマラから 分け合うこと、親切、慈悲、忍耐、信じることの力 の価値を身をもって おしえてもらいました。彼女は 何人かの私の愛し尊敬する チベットの気骨のある老人たちの一人です。私の想像を絶する苦労をしてきたにもかかわらず、人間性のすばらしいところをすべて備えておられました。
その何人かも母国の土を踏むことなく近年次々亡くなり、アマラの訃報も 大洋をこえて 最近伝わってきました。

彼女のことを思うとき、まず心に浮かぶのが 何年か前に話してくれた

チベットの水は、インドの乳より おいしい。
最後に 湧き水

アマラは 1980年代、一度チベットに戻ることができました。
アマラは故郷の大地を歩いているとき、せせらぎを見つけて、よろこびに我を忘れて 岸辺にかけより、手で水をすくって飲んだと、彼女の子供たちの一人で 今は仏教の博士号をもつお坊さんの友人が話してくれました。彼女が少女にように水に駆け寄る姿が目に浮かんだのを覚えています。

亡命の生活の60年あまりで、 故郷に戻れたのはその一回きり。

母国の大地、山、川、水が 無意味で無謀な開発にもかかわらず 強く


13 November 2017

Art news- "Drawings from Dharamsala" at National Chiao Tung University Arts Center September 21 to October 30 2017

Drawings,mixed media installation, and art videos from "Drawings from Dharamsala" were exhibited from September 21 to October 30 2017  at Arts Center of National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu-City, Taiwan.  This was the first time to show a large body of works, although not all,  which have been accumulated since my 6 month stay in Dharamsala in 2012 up to present.  I was told the exhibition and lectures were all well 'felt' by students on campus and visitors. Much gratitude to the professor who arranged my visit and exhibition,  volunteer students, and gallery stuff who made this occasion wholesome and meaningful.

Note: As I often mentioned in different interviews, I do not feel that these drawings were drawn by me, but by collective consciousness of lost lives.  Therefore, I wish that you skip my name and 'see' drawings directly.

I have started drawing them because I felt a strong urge to do so for these fellow sisters and brothers, whom I have never met but feel very close to.  I have always hoped the peaceful resolution would come to the Land of Snows and in the world someday soon for these sacrifices to stop.  However the situation is not better, more lives have been lost up till now.

さる 2017年9月21日から10月30日まで台湾の新竹市にある国立交通大学のアートセンターで 個展 ”ダラムサラからの絵”が開催されました。2012年、インドのダラムサラで6ヶ月滞在した時から 今に至る80点あまりのドローイング、ミックスト・メディア・インスタレーション、アートビデオが展示されました。企画をしてくださった教授、展示を手伝ってくれた生徒さん達、ギャラリーのスタッフのおかげでとても感慨深い経験になりました。また ギャラリーからのメッセージによると 2千人あまりの訪問者があったということです。このシリーズの絵は 自分が描いている時に度々 描いているのは自分でなく 自由を求めて亡くなっていった 方達が そばにいて描いているように強く感じました。だから 一種のいろいろな あったこともないけれどもとても近く感じる 人たちの祈りや望みの集合意識の絵だと 思っています。’彼らの絵’が たくさんの人に伝わったことを 以前状況が変わらず悲しく想う中にも嬉しく思います。

31 July 2017

For Passan Dhondup ( Dhondup Denu) July 29 2017

For Passan Dhondup,  49 yrs old, who self immolated near Lhagyal-Ri ( Lingkor), McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, India on July 29th 2017.

Passan was from Gyaltse in Shigatse, Tibet.  He arrived in India in 1991 and had lived in Dharamsala.  He was a wood painter at Norbulingka Institute since 2012.

Lingkor is a path that circulates below where the main temple and where H.H. Dalai Lama's resident  are on the tip of McLeod Ganj.   Many Tibetan people go there to do circumambulation in the early morning and evening while reciting prayers.  It is an important ritual to do so and many walk on the path every day to send prayers. The path is adorned with many prayer flags and surrounded with rush green and trees.

One witness heard him raising slogans 'long life to Gyalwa Rinpoche' while in flame. Others noticed him in flame, tried to get help, but it was too late to rescue him.

He came alone all the way from Shigatse, lived alone in the foreign land, and decided to do his lone protest on the path of prayers.