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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

30 March 2015

For Norchuk 2

Dear Norchuk

You died on March 6 2015
by setting yourself on fire

later the news came
that you have three children behind. Three children.

the reality of life without free air, clear water, and pure soil for generations
where many lost their lives in expressing their dignity and that they never give up

Probably you had lived fully: you offered water every morning, prayed, worked hard and raised children.
Till you decided to give your life away for what you believed in.
I wish I could feel you more.

After days since your passing, I see you standing with your bare feet on soft green grass like a mountain.  So as you can watch your children grow

Peace, peace, peace.  Peace, please come to your land









15 March 2015

Thinking of Lobsang Phutsok and Ngaba on March 16th

Four years ago today, Lobsang Phuntsok, a monk from Kirti Monastery, Ngaba, Amdo, set himself on fire.  He was only 20 years old. He walked to a busy main street from his monastery alone and walking in flame raising slogans loudly.  "May H.H.Dalai Lama return to Tibet" " Tibet needs freedom".

He fell into the ground twice then a bunch of army and police forces came to surround him. The witness says he was beaten severely on site.

Local people grabbed his body to admit a hospital but the hospital refused to treat him.
In great pain, he passed away around 3 am on the next day.

More than 3, 000 monks offered prayers all day and over night in front of his body wrapped with kathaks and three thousands and some hundreds people came to pay condolence to him at the monastery. Everybody was in tears.

March 16 in Ngaba is known to have had a major crush between local people and Chinese army force when a peaceful protest happened cross Tibet in 2008.  More than 30 people were brutally killed by random gun shots.  More than 1,000 were arrested and many went missing.

One witness said:
" Many people were killed in Ngaba on March 16, 2008.  After 3 years,  many people offer butter lamps at the monastery and home to pray for the victims.  Phuntsok's way was self immolation."

8 March 2015

For Norchuk

For Norchuk, who self immolated in Trotusk, Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet on March 6 2015.
She is 40 years old and she has recently taken a vow not to eat any meat.  Those are only things that are known along with her portrait picture.
I gazed at her face, the face of the woman who is around my age.  What brought her to decide to do this extreme protest in her village.  What kind of life had she have?   
it is again in Ngaba, the green county, where one life has gone in flame.

After sitting in front of the unfinished drawing for a while,  the last thing my mind did was to press finger prints with white ink around her face.  Pressing like offering butter lamps and prayers.  White to purify her pain.

NOTE: After this post, the further information about her came into the exile side.  Actually she is 47 years old and has three children.





7 March 2015

Thinking of Tapey and March 10th

Tapey, a monk from Kirti monastery in Ngaba, Amdo, is the first person who self immolated in Tibet.

On February 27th, 2009, he doused himself with oil, walked alone from the monastery to the crossroads in the market area of the town, and set himself on fire.

It is said that he was carrying a home made Tibetan flag that had at its centre a photograph of the Dalai Lama.

While shouting slogans, People's Armed Police force arrived and opened fire on him.
He fell the ground.

So many monks, nuns, young, old, fathers, and mothers, have followed him in Ngaba up till now.  people say  Ngaba is a land of the beautiful green pasture, yet, green grass has absorbed countless tears and blood of people.

I tried to feel Tapey's mind when he was making his country's banned flag in his room.  What a important meaning it must have had to him.  Yearning for freedom? Determination to show his dignity to the enemy?

March 10th is the anniversary of the Tibetan uprising in Lhasa in 1959.  Thousands of people had ringed the walls of the Norbulingka palace -summer residence of the Dalai Lamas to protect H.H. Dalai Lama the 14th and to show solidarity against Chinese Communist Party's rule. This lead to the major uprising in Lhasa on March 20th and in a few days, it is said ten thousands to fifteen thousands of Tibetan people were killed.  On this day, around the world, except in Tibet, many protest marches take place and streets are covered with Tibetan flags.


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'.