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 August 2016

Ani Yeshi Lhakdron

This is a portrait of 25 years old Nun Yeshi Lhakdron who disappeared after her arbitrary detention by Chinese security forces during the 2008 uprising in Tibet.  She was detained with two other fellow nuns and only she has been missing.

It is said the three nuns protested peacefully in Kardze County in 2008 raising slogans such as "Tibetans want human rights" and throwing leaflets that bore slogans calling for long life for Gyalwa Rinpoche (H.H. 14th the Dalai Lama) and freedom in Tibet.

After enquiring about her for a long time, her family members were forced to conclude that she had succumbed to torture during police custody. The news of the conclusion came out on the exile side
on June 30 2016, more than 8 years after her disappearance.  The photo of her came along with the news.

Her face with kind but strong willed eyes and  a shy smile struck me and stayed in my heart.
I printed the photo out and let her gaze at me for a long time.  I could not imagine how she and many other people could possibly gather all the strength to carry out a protest, for which  they must have known brutal violence and torture would await for them.

The portrait that I finally have drawn does not capture the pure-heartedness and strong will that I had felt from her in the photo.  I still post it here to express my deepest admiration for her courage, sorrows for the pain that she experiences, and to remember her life and will.

With wishes that the day will come when there is no torture and violence on the earth

11 July 2016

Remember Lobsang Gyatso February 13 2012

For Lobsang Gyatso, a 19 yrs old monk from Kirti monastery, who self immolated on February 13 2012 in Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet.

His protest occurred on the eve of China's presumed next leader Xi Jinping's visit to Washington D.C.
to meet President Obama.  He set fire to himself early afternoon at the top of the main street of Ngaba county town, while shouting slogans of pretest against the Chinese government.

Kirti monks in exile and other Tibetan sources said that  armed police and special forces were seen violently beating him as they extinguished the flames.

Two Tibetans who sought to help Lobsang were also severely beaten by police, with one being led away.

After his passing in the following 4 years, many other monks, nuns, lay people have carried out this painful protest, which they take all pain within their bodies instead of harming their enemy.
Ngaba has the most toll of 41 self immolations since 2009, many by the monks from Kirti monastery. Some also carry out a solo protest - each walks alone, holding up their precious teacher's photo in their hand and raising slogans - even though they all  know the painful abuse would await for them.

Their spirit and sense of dignity never die.

8 July 2016

'Do not stamp on my faith'

Dark heavy black arms reach
our scared mountains, rivers, and lakes
where our spirits lie
They come to dig, dig, and dig
and spit poison out to our water,
killing fish and animals that have lived in our ancient land for generations
They stamped on my land
They stamped on our bodies and took our brothers and sisters lives away
They stamped on our faith

Leave our land. stop digging
Stop harming us and our land
Let us go back to pasture 
Our faith and will never be dead no matter how many times they stamp

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.