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.

29 May 2016

Remember Tenzin Choedron - February 11 2012

For Tenzin Choedron, a 18 years old nun from Mame Dechen Nunnery, who self immolated in Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet on February 11 2012.

She carried out her protest early in the evening on February 11, shouting slogans against the Chinese government.  Where she chose to do the protest was the same place - the Sumdo Bridge area below the nunnery - as the fellow nun, Tenzin Wangmo, had set herself on fire on October 17 2011.
She passed away soon afterwards.

She was the eldest of four brothers and sisters.  She spoke little, followed the rules, studied hard, and got excellent grades.

She smiles gently and shyly in the photo of her, which came out to the exile side.  It is hard to imagine how this young person made this extreme decision.  One can only  that she must have grown her deep concerns for her country's and others' sufferings in her pure and resilient heart after experiencing harsh treatments to fellow nuns and Tibetan people.

Mame nunnery is the largest one in the area.  The group of nuns of brave hearts carried out a protest march in 2008, carrying a portrait of the Dalai Lama, after which many were detained.

17 May 2016

Remember Rinzin Dorje and Sonam Labyang February 8 2012

For Rinzin Dorje, a 19 yrs old former Kirti monk and Sonam Labyang, a 42 yrs old monk from Lab monastery, who carried out self immolation protests on February 8 2012.

Two protests happened in two different locations in Amdo on the same day: Rinzin Dorje at a primary school early in the evening in Ngaba county town in Ngaba and Sonam Labyang in Triwang town, Tridu County, Yulshul.

Rinzin Dorje set himself on fire at a primary school early in the evening and he was taken away by police to the local hospitals but believed to have passed away. He was known as a humble and kind person, and a hard worker, who enjoyed looking after the birds that lived around the monastery.  Sonam Labyang survived but both of his legs had to be amputated.  His current living situation and physical condition is unknown.

Recent the self-immolation of Rinzin on that day and former protests by others had triggered a number of protests in Ngaba and neighbouring Kardze, in which at least three Tibetans were shot dead.

February 8 was the global solidarity day for Tibet and candle light vigils took place worldwide by exile Tibetans and human rights supporters.  Tibetans in Tibet were aware about this, therefore the security in politically sensitive areas inside Tibet like Ngaba was very tight.

8 May 2016

For Sonam Tso March 23 2016

For Sonam Tso, a Tibetan woman in her 50s, who carried out a self immolation protest in Zoege, Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet on March 23 2016.

Her husband and she were doing kora ( circumambulation in Tibetan) around Sera Monastery.
While walking together,  she told him to go ahead and put herself on fire.  The young monk of the monastery heard her screaming "The return of the Dalai Lama and freedom for Tibet.
Tso's husband and the monk tried to put out the flames, and an elderly monk named Tsultrim, her uncle, then brought her inside the monastery.

She passed away in a vehicle where she was put to be taken to the hospital, before leaving the monastery.

She was a mother of five children, two boys and three girls.

Note:  News of her protest was initially delayed in reaching outside contacts due to communications clampdowns imposed by Chinese authorities in the area.

29 April 2016

Remember Losang Jamyang January 14 2012

For Losang Jamming, 22 yrs old man, who self immolated on January 14 2012 in the township of Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet.  He doused himself with kerosene and set himself on fire in a toilet in Ngaba and came out calling for the long life of Gyalwa Rinpoche and Tibetan freedom. It is said that the police surrounded him to beat with with iron rods with nails while he is in flame.  The video clip which came out to the exile side showed clearly that the security personnels were beating him and there were a large group of local Tibetans screaming against their inhumane actions.

The security police started shooting to the crowed and a few were severely injured. A woman called Choeki Dawa was shot in her leg and believed to have scrambled to death.  It is said there were many who were injured by shooting or were detained.

Losang passed away in the hospital on 16th and his family went to beg the authority to return his body however it is not certain if their wish were fulfilled.

He was known as the main person to promote the importance of learning and keeping Tibetan for Tibetan culture and identity, for which the local authority tried to pressure or threat him.

12 April 2016

Remember Sonam Wangyal, January 8 2012

For Lama Sonam Wangyal, who self immolated in the early morning of January 8 2012 in Darlag country, Golog, Amdo, Tibet. He was believed to be a reincarnated lama and a respected religious figure in this local area.

Before his self immolation protest, he climbed a local him to burn incense and pray, and then distributed leaflets saying he would act "not for his personal glory but for Tibet and the happiness of Tibetans".  Then he drank and threw kerosene all over his body to set himself on fire at around 6 a.m.

Police took away his body and hundreds of local Tibetans staged a candlelight vigil urging the authorities to release his body.

 I remember hearing the tragic news in Bodhgaya, India, where more than one hundred thousand people gathered for H.H. Dalai Lama's kalachakra.  There were Tibetans, Ladakhi, Bhutanese, all Himalayan region Buddhists, and foreigners from many countries. Everyone was under a big tree of dharma.  It was a chaotic yet very precious moment. There were so many different faces to receive blessings from H.H. Dalai Lama in that small town, where Buddha was  believed to have enlightened under the Bodhi tree.  The news of his deadly protest was a painful contrast, somebody who could be under this beautiful tree gave up his life in very painful way.  The news echoed my heart through like an arrow.

his recorded last messages can be found here.

11 March 2016

Performance report and introducing the first draft of ' Eyes Water Fire'

On March 5th, Kunsang Choeki, my Tibetan sister, and I participated in the multi disciplinary event called "Not Sent Letters and Guest" organised by Jeremy Todd. Kunsang read a letter written by me to a friend living in a politically sensitive place.  The letter can't sent without comporomising the addressee's safety. I lied down with a spirit while her reading the letter beautifully.
The first draft of a new animated short, Eyes Water Fire was screened and it is ready to be shared in public. Please take a look.

Link to the video:

Special thanks to"  Mona Ali-Zghoul and Ignacio Betancourt for compositing and sound for the video
and Kunsang Choekyi ( KC ) for her moving performance.  To Leanne Johnson for her advice and encouragement.  To Jeremy Todd for offering this opportunity. What a wonderful experience of resonance, understanding, creativity, and love.

Photo credit:  Alisha Weng

7 March 2016

For Dorje Tsering and Kusho Kalang Wangdu 2 - Bridge

 Social media was flooded with pictures of your smiling face, your ama la and pala holding tears, your family.  faces of mourning people. Video clips of the funeral and cremation. All I could do was to gaze them speechless in tears.

Such a loss. Such a pain. You could do many more things in your lives. But you are gone.  What do you think we can do for your sacrifices? 

Live well so as the world can be the better place. Build a bridge for all of you to go back.   

Tsering( Long life), Ama la and Pala in exile and in Tibet. Thousands of thoughts are with you and your sons.

 With wish of no other precious life gone like yours.   

1 March 2016

For Dorge Tsering and Kusho Kalsang Wangdu - February 29 2016

For Dorge Tsering, a 16 years old Tibetan student in Manali, India, and Kalsang Wangdu, a 18 yrs old monk of Retsokha Aryaling Monstery in Ganze, Kham, Tibet, who both self immolated on February 29th 2016.

Dorje Tsering, 16, set himself ablaze near a housing complex for elderly Tibetans in Dehradun at about 8:30 am.  His body is 95 % burnt and he is struggling.  He said on his bed 'I have the will to do somehting for the Tibetan cause and thought that I would sacrifice this body for the Tibetan cause'.

Kusho Kalsang Wangdu self-immolated around 4 pm near his monastery in Kardze.
It is said while engulfed in flame, he called out for Tibet's complete independence.  The security force seemed to have taken his body away, however, he passed away on the way before reaching a hospital in Chengdu.

Tibetan in exile and Tibetans inside.   One incident in a 'free democratic country in exile' and another in a 'suppressed father land'.  Both are teenagers.

I pray sincerely that the day will come when these young spirits do not have to give up their lives this way.  I wish someday soon they and all other suppressed could live where they belong to freely with their values and beliefs.  May open heart and compassion permeate as far and deep as possible.

Prayers and wishes for Dorge Tsering's recorvery and thoughts are with him and his parents.
His mother rescued him to the tap water and burnt herself as well.

Note: Dorje Tsering la passed way on March 3rd 2016 and funeral and cremation took place in Dharamsala on March 6th.  Hundreds people attended.

29 February 2016

Sketch - Impression on 'Ninjye'   スケッチ・ニンジェー(共苦)

Ninjye - this  Tibetan word means 'compassion' or 'feel compassion'.  If you are with Tibetan people, you will hear this word quite often.  When there is a story of somebody's misfortune or somebody doing a compassionate work,  listeners will say 'Ninjye', often with 'e' stretched( Ninjyeeee).

The other day I saw a Japanese translation for it in different version. Instead of translating it 'compassion' (慈悲), one Japansese scholar translated it literally 'sharing suffering'(共苦).
This Japanese in Chinese character struck my heart.

ninjye - 共苦 - empathy - resonance - compassion - Sharing suffering of others like ours with compassion.

Such a beautiful translation that one image emerged.

note:  The scholar's name is:  Dr. Yasuhide Tujimura ' Philosophy of Ninjye and Dala Lama'

チベット語のニンジェーの日本語訳 ’共苦’から浮かんできたイメージ(辻村優英さん訳)に 。 人の痛みを自分の痛みのように 慈悲を持って感じるのが 共苦


2016323日刊行予定 本体定価2800四六判・上製266
ISBN978-4-906791-55-2 C0015

24 February 2016

Form of Prayers 祈りのかたち

My dear friend offered an opportunity to draw a drawing.
His requested themes were prayer and votive lights.

I remembered countless memories of being among flickering flames of butter lamps and candles.
I remembered so many faces of people praying and shedding tears.
Their faces were illuminated by the light of the lamps and candles.

Ocean of lights. Form of prayer. These words came up while I was painting a red flame on each vessel and candle.

心友から 絵を描く機会をいただきました。
灯明と祈りが 感じられるイメージをと。

灯明と祈りという言葉で浮かんできたのは 数え切れぬ記憶、

描いた 容器と蝋燭に、ひとつひとつ 赤い絵の具で灯を描きいれているとき、

灯の大海 祈りの形