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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

22 February 2015

We never give up

Around Tibetan new year (Losar) in this February,  a video clip of a Losar celebration from Ngaba, Tibet, came out to the exile side.  They put up the portrait of Kundun( H.H. Dalai Lama) adorned with Kathaks( white scarves for blessing and gratitudes) and offerings, people are wearing Tibetan dresses( Chuba), chantings and fire crackers echoing in the blue sky. The most beautiful was a scene of thousands of white Lungta, small pieces of white paper with auspicious images and prayers, flying in the sky. On special occasions, people throw these in the sky for good luck.

In this area of Tibet, there have been lots of resistances and self immolations that are results of one of the most brutal history of destruction and killing by the communist army since 1951.  This area is known to have one of the tightest security, unfair arrests, and violences to the local Tibetans.

Yet, when I saw these beautiful pieces of paper floating in the blue sky and heard people screaming to the sky,  I felt their unspoken messages. 'We never give up.  We keep our dignity".  Bodgyalo.

12 February 2015

Through the earth, water, and air

somebody said
all sentient beings are connected through the earth, water, and air
Like trees are connected by their roots in the ground
If this is true,
even we are far apart,
we must be able to feel for one another
our prayers must reach you


27 January 2015

Story of Water and Fire 2




"I have not murdered Kunchok Tseten. He died out of self immolation.  I simply lifted his body up and have put it into the vehicle. I have not committed any murder at all"
Dolma Tso spoke up at the court while being sentenced 3 years in prison on a murder charge.

This is one real story among thousands of others who did not give it in, act with compassion and dignity.

I dedicate this drawing to her, all other people who lit themselves instead of killing their enemies, who protested to be arrested in prisons and who are in exile far away from their loving families.

May all the lives blossom like flowers in the fields and flow like countless clear water streams again.


20 January 2015

Story of Water and Fire


This place on the high plateau of the Himalayas is known for its healing water from glaciers and streams, white sacred mountains and ever rolling green pastures.  
It is called the roof of the world where its people have lived with the earthy nature and vibrant inner life. 

It has been for a while now that its land fell in the hands of the greed and inhuman
Many sacred mountains are dug
Water has been poisoned
Pastures are fenced
Its people have lost freedom of living as they and their ancestors had lived over a thousand of years

Snow Lions shed tears whenever they witness another human in flame standing on their lands screaming for justice,  violences and pains in dark concrete cells, and lifeless eyes of their people.

However people do not give up, they stand, pray and live for those who sacrificed.  Light butter lamps.

11 January 2015

Portrait of Tsering Kyi

I was going through drawings of portraits who self immolated in Tibet.  The portrait of Tsering Kyi came across.  She gazed at me and I did the same.  She carried out her protest at a vegetable market in town away from her nomad home and died on site on March 3rd 2012 in Machu, Amdo, Tibet.

  My friend interviewed a couple who knew her very well and now live in Dhasamsala.  I have recently read it through; the details about her upbringing, her earthy and honest nature, passion for education and how she spent the last few days before she decided to let her life go in flame.   She grew a strong sense of responsibility to preserve Tibetan language and culture and became concerned about the suppressive situation. 

In the morning when she was leaving her home to go back to the town, with a strong determination in her mind already,  she told her mother ' I may not see you again.  Can I marry somebody?  Good bye'. 

23 December 2014

For Kalsang Yeshe

For Kalsang Yeshe, 37 yrs old monk from Nyatso Monastery, who set himself on fire in Tawo, Kham, Tibet.

He carried out his protest outside of a security police outpost set up to monitor his monastery.  Before the protest, he called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for freedom in Tibet.  He is believed to be dead.

 A couple of pictures of him came out onlin to the Tibetan in exile side immediately.
One of them was of him sitting among beautiful blue flowers on the grassland.

Tibet keeps burning. I wish that he and other lost lives could have lived fully and peacefully with those blue flowers under the 'free' blue sky.

22 December 2014

For Tsepe

For Tsepe who self immolated in Meruma, Ngaba County, Tibet on December 22nd

No detail about her came out to the exile side.  Only we know is that she is around 20 years old and she is said to have died from her protest.

16 December 2014

For Sangye Khar

For Sangye Khar who self immolated in Amchok town, Sangchu County, Kanlho, Tibet on December 16, 2014.

Sangye set himself on fire right in front of the local police station around 9 am.  His charred body was taken to Sangchu County by the Chinese police who refused to hand over the body to his family despite protests from the local Tibetans.

Prayers to him who decided to have taken the extreme form of a protest. Also to Ngawang Monlam, a village leader who was killed by authority in Driru and Karmey, 22 years old who was beaten to death by the police.  In all cases, they committed no crime and they did not harm their brutal enemy. All they did were to do good deeds for fellow Tibetans and to stand up for justice and freedom.