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.

18 September 2015

Remember Tenzin Wangmo, October 17 2011

For Tenzin Wangmo, a 20 year-old Tibetan nun, who set fire to herself in a protest early afternoon in Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet on October 17 2011.

She called for the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet and for religious freedom for about 10 minutes while burning.  She died at the Sumdo bridge, located below her nunnary, Mame Dechen Chokorling Nunnery.

In the painful photo of her body burned down in the grass area,  a few figures of nuns far coming to her can be seen.   They must have been rushing with their hearts aching with sadness.
Police demanded to give her body to them, but nuns rejected and it is said that Tenzin Wangmo's body was cremated in the evening of October.

29 August 2015

For Tashi Kyi, August 27 2015

For Tashi Kyi, who self immolated in Kahlho, Amdo, Tibet on August 27 2015.  She passed away from her burns around 3 am on August 28th.  The police arrived in the morning and forcibly took away her body from the family.

On 27th, before her protest, she witnessed 150 officials and security personnel arrived in her village to claim official rights on a house an demolished the property.  The owner of the property and villagers protested, only to result beating and detention of the owner by security force.

This may have made her decide to carry out the self immolation protest to express her agony towards the injustice.

She was a mother of 5 children.

21 August 2015

Remember Norbu Damdrul, October 15 2011

For Norbu Damdrul, a 19 year old former monk at Kirti monastery, who set fire to himself on October 15th 2011 in Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet.

He walked on the main street in Ngaba county town while raising slogans "We need freedom and independence for Tibet" and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

He was still alive when police stationed on the street extinguished the flames and kicked Norbu's body before taking him away.

A large crowd of Tibetans who had gathered at the scene was dispersed at gunpoint by security personnel.

This was a week after Choephel and Kayang, also former monks at Kirti monastery, died in this non violence protest in Ngaba.

6 August 2015

Please give me water

Each year August 6th is a heart-sensitive day.  It is one of the great tragedies of human history that by a single blast a group of human beings were able to kill more than one hundred and forty thousand of their fellow humans, as well as countless other living creatures from the natural world. Just by one blast.

In the country I grew up we always kept a minute's silence in the morning at the exact time when the nuclear bomb exploded above Hiroshima. We grew up reading, listening, or watching horrifying episodes of individuals who had been victims. The phrase that I remember the most is 'please give me water'.  This phrase was uttered by people who were burnt and in pain.

This is the day for me to share both pain and hope with everyone - and my thoughts always go over to people who are in war, in prison, in pain and in despair at this moment.

Life is wonderful.  Life is painful. Both come and go. Unavoidable.

I offer water into bowls.  Bowls of mind.  Bowls of heart.  Water permeates each heart and connects each of us in this sphere.  Let's keep water calm and peaceful. 

27 July 2015

For Tenzin Delek Rinpoche - thousands eyes are shedding tears

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a highly respected Tibetan religious leader, was held in prison for over 13 years, serving a life sentence for a crime that he did not commit.  In another word, he was innocent.

On July 13th, he passed away in the prison, in believed-to-be poor health condition.

Further more, the local authority ignored family and local people's wish to have his body returned so as they can have proper prayer ceremonies.  Instead his body was cremated in the remote detention center, as if they wanted to erase all the evidences of their ill treatments to his body over years.   Only ashes were returned to his sister and family.

He was somebody whom many thousands of people kept in their hearts and who dedicated his life to
keep his culture alive, to promote education, and to help people.   He was a hope and a lamp to shine the darkness in suppressed lives of people.

Loss. Injustice. Sadness.

10 July 2015

For Kusho Sonam Topgyal July 9 2015

For Sonam Topgyal, 26 years old monk, who set himself on fire in Kyegudo, Kham, Tibet on July 9th 2015.

A few photos of him engulfed in flames on the paved square, some people standing near by, came out to the exile place first.  His name, age, and hometown came out later. No further details did not reach due to the immediate shut down of means of communications to outside.

In the photos, he has his hands in prayer, almost clasping.

By standers took him to the hospital, however, his condition is unknown.

This happened 3 days after H.H. Dalai Lama's 80th birthdays.  It felt like the whole world was celebrating his birthday and wishing for long life.  Despite of pressure from the local Chinese authorities, many pictures came out from Tibet that Tibetan people inside Tibet are celebrating it by putting up Kundun's photos and making beautiful alters with offerings to them.

Then this sad news came out.  It is heartbreaking to imagine what was on his mind during the celebration and before his protest.

Note:  Further details at present of July 10. Sonam Topgyal is a native of Kham Nangchen, his father's name spells Nangchen Tashi and Bode is of Mother. He has five siblings.
He had been studying for 7 years at Dege Dzongsar Monastery. 

2 July 2015

Remember Choephel and Kayang, October 7 2011

For Choephel, 19 years old and Kayang, 18 years old, who carried out their protest together on the main street in Ngaba county town, Amdo, Tibet, on October 7 2011.

The two young men, former monks from Kirti Monastery, clasped their hands together and set fire on themselves before security personnel extinguished the flames and took the two to the country's government hospital.

The Ngaba area has been under military lockdown since major protests were held in the area following the spread of protests across the Tibetan plateau beginning  in March, 2008.  In one major demonstration in Ngaba in 2008, at least 10 Tibetans were shot dead by security forces.

"Tibetans are deeply religious, and they are willing to pay the ultimate price for their religion and freedom" Zorgyi

"Monks take a vow that says they are not allowed to end their lives. But on the other hand, these actions are not for an individual, they are for a people"  H.H. Karmapa

23 June 2015

Remember Kelsang Wangchuk October 3 2011

For Kelsang Wangchuk, a 17 years old monk from Kirti monastery, who self immolated in Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet on October 3 2011.

kelsang carried a photo of the Dalai Lama and was shouting slogans against the Chinese government when he set fire to himself along the main street in Ngaba county town.

Shortly after his protest, additional security forces were deployed in town and at Kirti monastery, increasing an already tense security atmosphere in the area known for its outspoken expression of the Tibetan identity and frequent peaceful protests.

It is said that a few days prior to Kelsang's protest,  pamphlets were distributed and posted around Kirti Monastery and the market place in Ngaba county town which read: If the current security crackdown in the area were to continue, many more people were prepared to give up their lives in protest.

Soon H.H. Dalai Lama will become 80 years old.  There are many pictures online arrived from Tibet that people put up his photo with beautiful offerings, celebrate his birthday openly,and wish for his long life.  While feeling cheered up by seeing photos of Tibetan people in Tibet who show their unshaken devotion and strong spirit,  my thoughts go to these brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives for the better world.  I wish they could come back to this world to celebrate it together after the true peace comes to Tibet and in the world. 

11 June 2015

Remember Lobsang Kelsang and Lobsang Kunchok -September 26 2011

For Lobsang kelsang and lobsang Kunchok, two teenage monks from Kirti Monastery, who set
themselves on fire on September 26 2011 in Ngaba town, Ngaba, Amdo.

Two of them left monastery after the morning prayer session and arrived at the intersection down town in Naba town around 10:30 am. They sat there for a while.  Then they stood up, holding up a Tibetan national flag together, calling out slogans, and gradually set them selves on fire.

The security force rushed and extinguished the flame to take them away.
It is said that Lobsang Kunchok survived and Lobsang Kalsang's well being is unknown.

27 May 2015

For Sangye Tso

For Sangye Tso, 36 yrs old, who self immolated in Choparashing, Chone County, Amdo, Tibet on May 27 2015.

She, a mother of two, carried out her self-immolation around 4 am in front of a Chinese security  and re-education building located within the compound of Choparshing monastery.

The monastery has been under intense pressure including arrests of monks and applying fines for having peaceful protests.  The large buildings that house security and propaganda workers had been actually built inside the monastery's walled compound to watch activities of monks.

These suppressive actions of the Chinese authorities have deeply hurt and humiliated the local Tibetans who see them as attacks against Tibetan culture and religion, and that the sense of injustice and helplessness felt by many may have been what drove Sangye Tso to carry out her desperate protest.