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 February 2016

Performance and Art Video Screening in Vancouver March 5 2016

On Monkey Fire Losar, my prayers are with my near and far brothers and sisters who are in prison, in pain, and in suppression for their expression of human dignity.  My wishes are for all living beings to be released from pain and closed dark places to green pasture under the blue sky, where they can feel fresh air and drink pure water.  In another word, freedom. Peaceful wishes on Losar.

In the winter of 2015, I had worked on a short art video piece which is titled 'Eyes Water Fire'.  The first draft will be screened for the first time @NOT SENT LETTERS & GUESTS organised by Jeremy Todd( please see the detailed info below). 
Much gratitude to Jeremy for including me in his event, to Jose and Mona for editing the video, and my Tibetan art sister who agreed to perform for me in this event.

 I would like to share the poem that I composed for the video instead of describing the content. I hope once it is complete, I can share this with wider audience.

Eyes Water Fire

Thousands of Eyes
Shedding tears
Vessels floating
On rough water
 Legs crossing glaciers half frozen
In the snow mountains
Keep flames burning to show
That we are here and we have here to live
To reach the light
Tears of light

Note:The title ‘Eyes Water Fire” can be three nouns or water as a verb as if Eyes shedding tears to calm the flame.


interdisciplinary works by



digital shorts by

a not sent letters set by

@ Dynamo Arts Association,
30 East 6th Avenue, Vancouver
Saturday Night, March 5, 2016
$5-$20 suggested sliding scale donation
(toward event production costs)
No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.
The programme begins at 8pm 

"TOMOYO IHAYA (井早、智代), a Vancouver-based artist often working abroad, presents a letter written to a friend living in a politically sensitive place.  The letter can’t be sent without compromising the addressee’s safety and will be read aloud at NSL&G by KUNSANG CHOEKYI.  The first draft of a new animated short will be screened immediately following the reading, dedicated by the artist to everyone caught up in similar circumstances."

NOT SENT LETTERS & GUESTS form public constellations of engaged interdisciplinary practice, unmediated by the realpolitik conditions of contemporary art as a competitive professional sphere. The interrelatedness of art, society and everyday life is critically explored amongst a diverse plurality of artists and publics. Jeremy Todd instigates each event as an extension of his ongoing Not Sent Letters Project, an entanglement with the production of meaning, self and cultural memory, involving image/text epistolary detours online (since 2005), digital shorts, interdisciplinary performance works and cooperatively realized public events.  This is the twentieth NOT SENT LETTERS & GUESTS event.

26 January 2016

Remember Tenzin Phuntsog December 1 2011

For Tenzin Phuntsog,  46 yrs old, who self immolated in Khamar township in Chamdo, Tibet on December 1 2011. He was a former monk of Karma Monastery, which located on the eastern bank of the Dzachu River in Chamdo.  His protest was apparently against the increased repression and tightening of security.

He was severely burned and passed away on December 9th.  He was survived by his wife, Dolma, and 3 children.

I saw a picture of Karma monastery surrounded with green and cliff behind.  Some of green trees looked like willow trees.  So I drew them from your head, wishing you grow back like those green trees again.

Note:  Tenzin Phuntsog's will

"If Khenpo Lodoe Rapsel, Namsey Sonam and all the monks and nuns of Karma Gon Monastery, the true and un-mistakable practitioners of Buddhist dharma, have to endure torture and imprisonment like this, then it is better for all of us at Karma Gon Monastery to die. I, the despicable Tenzin Phuntsok, write this with loyalty.

Brothers and sisters, don’t be sad and don’t lose your courage. My Dharma friends, think about our two khenpos and the monks and nuns who are holders of the Dharma practice. How can we believe in these rules that restrict the freedom of religion? I, Tenzin Phuntsok, wrote this.

Dharma friends in Karma Gon Monastery, it is useless just to live thinking about our beloved khenpos and the monks and nuns. Stand up! Clinging to taste of the eight worldly concerns, beings run away from these as they would from their enemies, I bow before the Buddha, who cannot be placated by small pleasures. I, the sorrow-filled, loathsome man called Tenzin Phuntsok wrote this.

When I think about the suffering throughout Tibet, and especially the pain at Karma Gon Monastery, there is no way that I can go on living."  

13 January 2016

A bridge called hope

A bridge was there for hundreds and hundreds of years
One day a big storm came
River flooded, swallowing people, animals, and everything
The beloved bridge was split into half in the middle

Those survived kept a small butter lamp in each heart
that would never go off
With light of butter lamps
They gathered threads of hope
day by day to weave a little bridge

They never gave up.  They kept walking and will keep walking

26 December 2015

In flame you walk - a drawing from ' Eyes Water Fire'

This is a drawing for one scene in the art video called "Eyes Water Fire".  A short video starts from a scene of the green pasture, mountains and a river.  Yaks and Sheep.  Nomad tents.  Then fences appear, water in the river and grass of the pasture turn into brown.  Out of the dead pasture,  a white figure of woman and people in flame appear.  They move in group, with praying faces and hand in the prayer form.  They walk towards a snowy mountain, that has a glacier lake in its belly.  They walk and disappear into the blue water.  They walk in flame. Water cool their bodies and their hearts.  The pure hearts.

The art video will be in public in the next year.
I post this with a sincere wish that the true peace prevails on the earth.

In thought of all these fellow humans who sacrificed their lives for human dignity, justice, and others' well-being.

At last,  I would like to express my deep gratitude for two young artists, Mona and Jose, who have helped me to make these drawings 'alive'.

3 December 2015

Remember Palden Choetso - November 3 2011

For Ani Palden Choetso, a nun from Ganden Jangchup Choeling Nunnery, who self immolated on November 3 2011 in Tawu county, Kardze, Kham, Tibet.

It is said that she may have set fire to herself in the same place that monk Tsewang Norbu from Nyitso monastery self immolated on August 15 in the same year.

As her body was burning, Palden Choetso called for the long life of the Dalai Lama, Freedom, and for the Dalai Lama return home.

She passed away soon after her protest.
Afterwards,  a group of nuns lead a protest and thousands of local Tibetans carried out a candle vigil early in the morning of her funeral on November 6th.

The video, which came out from there, shows her standing on the street engulfed in flame.
A woman in chuba ( Tibetan traditional dress) walks up to Palden Choetso's burning body and throws a kathak(Tibetan white scarf for offering and blessing).

On the dark street and against the fierce flame, the white kathak flied in the air like a white pigeon of peace.  May peace come to your land soon, someday, Ani la.

9 November 2015

Remember Dawa Tsering October 25 2011

For Dawa Tsering, a monk from Kartze Monastery, who carried out a self immolation protest on October 25 2011 in Kartze, Kham, Tibet.

He set himself alight and shouted slogans calling for the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet during a religious ceremony at the time of a Cham dance.  Hundreds of local people were in attendance.
He was taken back to the monastery to be taken care and monks and laypeople tried to prevent Chinese police from detaining him.

He survived from this protest and the photo of him with his father at home came out to the exile side after less than one year.  The picture showed a gaunt Dawa Tsering with his chine and throat shriveled up with dark patches.

"His future remains unknown and uncertain because he might not be allowed to return back to his monastery. Instead, he could be jailed at any time"

I think of him, wondering how he is now after four years.  I hope he carries light in his heart no matter what struggles he faces.  He is so far away and our hands can not reach him easily.

1 November 2015

Eyes Water Fire

Thousands of Eyes
Shedding tears
Vessels floating
On rough water
Legs crossing glaciers half frozen
In the snow mountains
Keep flames burning to show
That we are here and we have here to live
To reach the light
Tears of light

19 October 2015

"Drawings from Dharamsala" @ The Third Hong Kong Tibet Film & Cultural Festival 2015

52 drawings from 'Drawings from Dharamsala' will be exhibited in Hong Kong as a part of The Third Tibet Film & Cultural Festival 2015. 

Tomoyo Ihaya
"Drawings from Dharamsala"
@Yueh Chiao Art Gallery, Shaw College, CUHK
November 2nd to 11th 2015

Organized by Dorothy Hui Sin Ming, Hong Kong Stand with Tibet, co-operate with Student Union of the Chinese University of Hong Kong . 

以下是所有海報及場刋資料(Posters and Boucher):


Event Page:

破牆特刊(採訪內容,地界及自焚) / 採通(Break Wall Magazine)

西藏處境:(Situation in Tibet)

展覽作品: (Exhibition Art Work)