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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

17 September 2014

For Lhamo Tashi

For Lhamo Tashi, 22 year old student who set fire to himself outside a security office in Tsoe city, Amdo at midnight on September 17.

By the time his family who live in Drukdo village reached the police in Tsoe, his body had been cremated and only ashes was returned to his family.

This drawing does not capture your pure heartedness  and honesty that I can feel from the photo of you, but I offer this to you as my prayers.

8 May 2014

For Phakpa Gyalsten

For Phakpa Gyalsten who died in protest against Chinese mining activities in Tongbar town of Zogang County in Chamdo, Tibet on May 8.

He climbed onto a high building at the town center, and called out for Tibetan freedom. When attempts were made to stop him, he stabbed himself twice and jumped off the building.

he had told local people that he would do something to express the Tibetans’ collective opposition to the mining activities in the area,

Survived by his pregnant wife and 3 children

15 April 2014

For Thinley Namgyal


Brother Thinley,
One night, a few days after your passing on April 15, I looked at your picture again.
A painful picture of you in flame on the slope of dry soil.

I realized you wore your Chuba, the traditional dress of your culture
to show that you are Tibetan at your last moment of this life.

To show that your heart and dignity are not to be conquered by anybody.

For Thinley Namgyal

For Thinley Namgyal, 32 yrs old, who self immolated near Khangsar village, Tawu district, Kardze, Kham, Tibet on April 15 2014.

Picture of him smiling at a cafe and painful ones of him in burning protest came out from Tibet.

Such a painful non-violence act, painful to see you going like this. Painful to know that you were born and had lived in such a world where you had to choose the extreme act.

May stream of light cool down your body and you cross a bridge safely.

29 March 2014

For Ani Dolma

For Ani Dolma, 24 yrs old nun, who self immolated in Bathang County, Kham, Tibet on March 29th 2014.

Ani la ( Nun in TIbetan) protest took place near
Ba Choede monastery. Local Tibetans on their routine circumambulation spotted her. They doused the flames and took her to a nearby hospital.

The security force arrived and blocked the hospital. All means of communications in the area have been cut off to outside.

19 March 2014

For Goshul Lobsang la

Tomorrow We Together Here

Goshul Losang la

You have endured many months in the dark cell,
tortured, beaten up
till your body
became bones and skin

Even though your body were to go,
your spirit remained firm and clear,
like a clear light of Dorje Semba

Your firm belief without regret
you have served your life
To protect your culture, religion and freedom
and your 6 million Tibetan brothers and sisters

I had drawn you from a picture of you on painful death bed in March.
your figure on your death bed still keeps lingering in my heart
I wanted you to be in green pasture again
over looking snowy mountains
From which the new sun, glorious tomorrow, is rising

16 March 2014

For Lobsang Palden and an unidentified monk

For Khechok Palden, a monk from Kirti monastery, Ngaba, Amdo and an unidentified monk from Tsekhog, Malho, who self immolated on March 16th 2014.

Kunchok Palden, a monk from Kirti Monastery, Ngaba, Amdo, set himself ablaze on the main road in a town of Ngaba where more than a dozen Tibetans have self immolated.

March 16th is a day of a heavy and
tragic memory for Ngaba. In 2008, many people were shot to death by the Chinese police force when they were carrying out a peaceful protest. Since then till this day, Ngaba continues to suffer. 36 lives have been lost by self immolation protests since 2009.

Information on the other unidentified monk from Malho has not arrived at this point.

March has become a sad month, the most memorable month for Tibetans and for us who care for peace and freedom in the world.