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.

13 November 2017

Art news- "Drawings from Dharamsala" at National Chiao Tung University Arts Center September 21 to October 30 2017

Drawings,mixed media installation, and art videos from "Drawings from Dharamsala" were exhibited from September 21 to October 30 2017  at Arts Center of National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu-City, Taiwan.  This was the first time to show a large body of works, although not all,  which have been accumulated since my 6 month stay in Dharamsala in 2012 up to present.  I was told the exhibition and lectures were all well 'felt' by students on campus and visitors. Much gratitude to the professor who arranged my visit and exhibition,  volunteer students, and gallery stuff who made this occasion wholesome and meaningful.

Note: As I often mentioned in different interviews, I do not feel that these drawings were drawn by me, but by collective consciousness of lost lives.  Therefore, I wish that you skip my name and 'see' drawings directly.

I have started drawing them because I felt a strong urge to do so for these fellow sisters and brothers, whom I have never met but feel very close to.  I have always hoped the peaceful resolution would come to the Land of Snows and in the world someday soon for these sacrifices to stop.  However the situation is not better, more lives have been lost up till now.

さる 2017年9月21日から10月30日まで台湾の新竹市にある国立交通大学のアートセンターで 個展 ”ダラムサラからの絵”が開催されました。2012年、インドのダラムサラで6ヶ月滞在した時から 今に至る80点あまりのドローイング、ミックスト・メディア・インスタレーション、アートビデオが展示されました。企画をしてくださった教授、展示を手伝ってくれた生徒さん達、ギャラリーのスタッフのおかげでとても感慨深い経験になりました。また ギャラリーからのメッセージによると 2千人あまりの訪問者があったということです。このシリーズの絵は 自分が描いている時に度々 描いているのは自分でなく 自由を求めて亡くなっていった 方達が そばにいて描いているように強く感じました。だから 一種のいろいろな あったこともないけれどもとても近く感じる 人たちの祈りや望みの集合意識の絵だと 思っています。’彼らの絵’が たくさんの人に伝わったことを 以前状況が変わらず悲しく想う中にも嬉しく思います。

31 July 2017

For Passan Dhondup ( Dhondup Denu) July 29 2017

For Passan Dhondup,  49 yrs old, who self immolated near Lhagyal-Ri ( Lingkor), McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, India on July 29th 2017.

Passan was from Gyaltse in Shigatse, Tibet.  He arrived in India in 1991 and had lived in Dharamsala.  He was a wood painter at Norbulingka Institute since 2012.

Lingkor is a path that circulates below where the main temple and where H.H. Dalai Lama's resident  are on the tip of McLeod Ganj.   Many Tibetan people go there to do circumambulation in the early morning and evening while reciting prayers.  It is an important ritual to do so and many walk on the path every day to send prayers. The path is adorned with many prayer flags and surrounded with rush green and trees.

One witness heard him raising slogans 'long life to Gyalwa Rinpoche' while in flame. Others noticed him in flame, tried to get help, but it was too late to rescue him.

He came alone all the way from Shigatse, lived alone in the foreign land, and decided to do his lone protest on the path of prayers.

16 July 2017

For Tenzin Choeying - The Great Ocean called Life July 14 2017

For Tenzin Choeying, 19 years old Tibetan student in exile, who set himself ablaze on July 14 in Varanasi, India.  He carried out his protest at around 9 a.m. in the entrance of a residence hall while calling for freedom for his homeland "Victory to Tibet".

Tenzin is from the Kollegal Tibetan Settlement in South India, and is a student at the Central University for Tibetan Studies in Varanasi.

He is in critical condition with burns over 60 percent of his body and is treated in a hospital in Varanasi.

It is painful to feel his, his parents' , and a whole community's pain.  It is truly heartbreaking to witness so many fellow brothers and sisters, including young people like him, choosing to take an extremely painful form of protest like this because of a strong sense of injustice and urge for freedom.
And many of us stand with heavy heart at a loss, even though many of us wish for the better world for them, us, and all.

I want him to live.  It may be a painful path of recovery, but I wish him to keep living fully in the Great Ocean called life.

14 July 2017

Reunion Under the Clear Blue Sky - July 13 2017

 July 13 2017 - After finding out the sad news of Chinese activist and writer Liu Xiaobo's passing, all I could do was to sit still in tears.  In front of my eyes were on the blue drawings that I had been working on that were about something subtle that could not be described in words. They were lit by the morning light.  Out of blue, these figures overlapped with him and his partner, Liu Xia.

 I have always kept him, her and their poems in my heart and wished for his release and reunion with his beloved Liu Xia, who had been under a house arrest while he was in prison. I, like many thousands of others, wanted him to live in the peaceful and free world.  

Liu's passing brought the sad memory of another inspiring human being, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche's passing on July 12 2015.   Like Liu, he was the one who did everything to serve his Tibetan community spiritually, culturally and socially, which led the authority to arrest him out of fear for his popularity and influence to local Tibetans. He committed no crime and passed away in prison.  

May each of us carry on their wills and spirit and never let these kinds of tragedy happen again. I believe that how this world manifests in the future depends on each of us. 
Never forget that there so many other nameless shining stars like them who did not give up expressing for the human rights in exchange of their lives. 

劉晓波と 劉霞に捧げる絵 ー この絵は なにか言葉にあらわせない 生きるという大海の深いところを不器用に模索しながら製作していたものです。今朝 尊敬する、また無事釈放されて パートナーである劉霞と一緒になれる事を祈っていた民主活動家、教師、詩人である劉晓波さんの訃報がはいってきました。涙がとまらずただ座っていた目の前にこの絵があって 彼らの姿が重なりました。へたで無骨な絵ですけれども この絵は彼らが一緒に 平和で自由な青空のもと また無数の同士と一緒に暮らせるときが来るよう祈りを込めて 彼らに捧げます。また一日違いの、7月12日は、同じように不当に投獄され2015に亡くなったテンジン・デレック・リンポチェの命日でもあります。かれは社会奉仕活動、文化的活動をとうして 地元チベット人に圧倒的な支持をうけていたため 権威の目のかたきにされ 犯していない罪で逮捕され 牢獄でその一生をおえました。
Daybreak Liu Xiaobo
Over the tall ashen wall, between
the sound of vegetables being chopped
daybreak is bound and severed
dissipated by a paralysis of spirit
What is the difference
Between the light and the darkenss
that seems to surface through my eyes'
apertures, from my seat of rust
I can't tell if it 's the glint of chains
in the cell, or the god of nature
behind the wall
The day's dissidence
makes the arrogant
sun stunned to no end
Daybreak a vast emptiness
you in a far place
with nights of love stored away
from Five Poems for Liu Xia/June Fourth Elegies

26 June 2017

We Want Freedom June 23 2017

For A Tibetan person who died by slitting open his throat near the holy Jokhang Temple in Lhasa on June 23 2017.

He called out slogans such as "Tibetans don't have rights and freedom' and 'We want to freedom".

The incident took place around 10 a.m.  near Jokhan temple and soon after the local police and the security perosonnel arrived at the scene and covered the spot from four sides using large clothes.

Tibetans trying to approach were blocked and also told that it was a care of suicide and not a protest.

From far away,  I can only offer many white kathaks to hold and heal his wound.

Strong wishes for freedom can not be covered up with cloths and lies.

Note: Due to immediate restriction by the local police and security, the identity of the Tibetan remains unknown as of now.

17 June 2017

Remember Rinchen March 4 2012

For Rinchen, a Tibetan woman in her early thirties, who self immolated in Ngaba town, Ngaba, Tibet on March 4 2012.  She set herself on fire near a military camp in the vicinity of Kirti monastery.

She was a widowed mother of four children.

According to Tibetan monks from Kirti monastery who are now in exile, as she set herself ablaze, Rinchen shouted "Return His Holiness to Tibet" and "We need freedom". She passed away soon afterwards.

While drawing her after five years of her passing, I think about her children and the land of Ngaba, where close to 50 people have self immolated since 2009. Its beautiful green pasture holds so many tear drops, strong spirit, and desperate prayers for peace and freedom. 

20 May 2017

For Jamyang Losal May 19 2017

For Jamyang Losal, aged about 22,  who self immolated on May 19 2017 in Kangtsa county,
Amdo, Tibet.

He set himself on fire around 5 a.m. near the People's Hospital and passed away.   His body was taken away by the police, and when his family members went to the police station to claim his remains,  the police refused to comply with their request.

Losal was a monk belonging to Gyeteng Monastery in Kangtsa's Nangra town, where 20 monks reside and study.

17 May 2017

Exhibition 'Eyes Water Fire' @ ODD Gallery/KIAC, Dawson City, Yukon, Canada

Dear Friends: I am having an exhibition 'Eyes Water Fire" at Odd Gallery in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. Please drop in if you are nearby exploring the great north of Western Canada. Please feel free to share.  Please find the article written by Robin Laurence and my artist bio/statement for the gallery's brochure below. 

Tomoyo Ihaya 
Eyes Water Fire
May 18th to June 22nd 2017 
Opening/artist talk at 7:30 pm May 18th
Odd Gallery/Klondike Institute of Art & Culture
902 2nd Ave., Box 8000, Dawson City, Yukon Y0B 1G0

Tomoyo Ihaya is a dedicated traveller. During the past decade and a half, she has made extended journeys to India from her home base in Vancouver. She has also installed exhibitions, attended workshops, or taken up residencies in Mexico, Thailand, France, and Japan, and has spent a couple of summers making art in a small studio in Norfolk, England. Her semi-nomadic existence is driven not by the touristic craving to consume the exotic but by the social and spiritual impulse to connect, identify, and understand, and the creative need to register these experiences in a meaningful way. Many of her drawings, mixed-media installations, and video works are her responses to peoples, cultures, and events to which she feels deeply bound. They are also a form of political protest, registering her dismay at the plight of persecuted minorities and her sympathy for refugees fleeing war, terror, and ethnic violence.
Ihaya’s most powerful connection has been to India, which she has visited some sixteen times since 2005. She is a committed practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, also known as compassionate Buddhism, and her first trip to South Asia was made with her Vancouver-based meditation group. Initially she was drawn to Ladakh, a remote and sparsely populated region in the north of India, often referred to as “Little Tibet” because of its ethnic, cultural, and religious ties to that disputed place.1 Ihaya has also spent long periods of time in Tibetan settlements in the Himalayan region.

The series, “Drawings from Dharamsala,” was initiated in Puri, an Indian city on the Bay of Bengal, where Ihaya had taken up an artist’s residency in early 2012. She was alone in a cyber café there when she saw a report with a photo of a Tibetan monk who had self-immolated in protest of the Chinese government’s occupation of his country and its oppression of Tibetan culture and religion.2 The only way Ihaya could process the pain and the horror of this individual’s drastic protest was to return to her room and draw a figure enveloped in red and white, the red symbolizing fire and the white, the desire for peace and purification. Following this event, Ihaya felt compelled to travel to Dharamsala, the home of the Dalai Lama and the seat of the Tibetan government in exile. During the six months in total she spent there, she produced more than 70 drawings, each again in response to another self-immolation. At the same time, she researched the lives of the Tibetan martyrs and took part in community vigils and memorials. Whether exhibited in galleries or posted on her website, the drawings are a way of expressing her personal grief and anguish over the horrific deaths of her co-religionists as well as a means of memorializing them and communicating their cause and their sacrifice to the wider world.

Ihaya’s mixed-media installation expands her art-making beyond the fixed dimensions of the prints and drawings with which she has long been identified. Eyes, Water, Fire utilizes layering and repetition to suggest the complexity of the narratives she is trying to convey while also allowing the possibility of folding new ideas and experiences into each site- specific iteration. Although originating with the situation of Tibetans refugees, the symbolism of this work may be universalized to depict millions of refugees worldwide, including Syrians escaping war in their homeland and minority Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution and violence by the Buddhist majority in Myanmar. Blue legs suggest forced migrations and long journeys, over snowy mountains and across wide seas. Red flames declare resistance and dignity. Eyes, large and small, are multivalent, signifying, among other things, the act of witness, windows to the mind, and vessels filled with and shedding tears. Using incense sticks, Ihaya burns tiny holes in her drawings of eyes as an act of prayer or meditation; the light that shines through these holes symbolizes hope.
Similar images and symbols appear in Ihaya’s video, also titled Eyes, Water, Fire. Here, the simplicity of her hand-drawn forms and stop-motion techniques – the spectral opposite of high-tech, digitally rendered animation -- accords with the simplicity of prayer, and the repetition of symbols again suggests meditation. The work alludes to the occupation of Tibet, the erasure of traditional life ways, the pollution of important river systems, and, again, self-immolation protests. The wonder of Ihaya’s simple forms and apparently guileless repetition is that they communicate emotional power, social complexity, and spiritual depth.
Robin Laurence © 2017
Parts of this essay previously appeared in the form of articles by the author in The Georgia Straight. Self-immolating protesters have included not only Buddhist monks and nuns but also Tibetan men,
women and teenagers from every walk of life

Tomoyo Ihaya Eyes Water Fire May 18 - June 22, 2017
ODD Gallery

TOMOYO IHAYA was born and raised in Tsu City, Mie, Japan, and has been a resident of Canada since 2000. After studying studio arts at universities across Canada, Ihaya completed her MFA at the University of Alberta in 2002.
An interest in diverse cultures and a strong belief that art and one’s life should be intertwined have led Ihaya to travel and produce artwork through international artist-in-residency programs in India, Mexico, Thailand, the United States and Canada. She has exhibited locally, nationally and internationally since 1998 and is a recipient of numerous project grants and awards for artists.
Since 2005, Tomoyo Ihaya has spent an extensive amount of time in India on independent art research and, during this time, she has become close to Tibetan communities in exile through her studies in Tibetan Buddhism. Since the winter of 2011, she has been working on a series of drawings about Tibetans who have self-immolated in response to the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The drawings are a form of mourning and prayer for the victims, and the result of her close relationships with Tibetan friends and families over the years.
When she is not in India, Tomoyo Ihaya lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where she teaches and makes art.
After many years of traveling and living abroad, particularly in India (sixteen visits since 2005), I have grown increasingly sensitive to people who have been forced to migrate. I have heard many stories of the loss of lives in struggle against suppression, lost homelands, escapes, and life in exile. There are many young and old friends with whom I have shared time together, who are refugees. Each of them possesses a story of hardship within his/her heart. They have not seen their families for many years. Some elder friends have passed away in the foreign land they escaped to, far from their native land. All these stories I have heard have made me think about what it is to be born and live. As a person who was born in a stable country (Japan) and who now lives in a stable country (Canada), my level of resonance/synchronization with these people and their journeys may not be able to reach the true depth of their despair. However, I do feel pain and I feel compelled to draw when I see the images and hear the stories of thousands of people escaping en masse over mountains, across great plains and oceans by any means possible. These works are the result of my direct and indirect experiences with people whom I have come to know.
ROBIN LAURENCE is an independent writer, critic and curator based in Vancouver. She is the award-winning visual arts critic for The Georgia Straight and has long been a contributing editor of Canadian Art and Border Crossings magazines. 

7 May 2017

For Chagdor kyab May 2 2017

For Chogdor Kyab, 16 yrs old junior high school student, who self immolated on May 2nd 2017 in Bora, Amdo, Tibet.

It is said that Chogdor walked inside of Bora monastery in the evening, set himself on fire, and ran in flame towards Bora city hall while screaming slogans ' freedom for Tibet' 'Bring H.H.Dalai Lama to Tibet'.

He fell onto the ground gradually.  The security force rushed to the site immediately to take his body away.  His whereabout and condition is not known at present.


15 April 2017

For Wangchuk Tseten April 15 2017

For Wangchuk Tseten, a 30 yrs old nomad, who self immolated on April 15th in Gump County, Kardze , Kham, Tibet. 

According to a video and comments posted on social media this morning local time, a Tibetan monk set himself on fire in an apparent protest against Chinese rule. Online posts suggest that security personnel arrived moments later, put out the fire using extinguishers,and took him away in a vehicle.

After a few days, it was confirmed that he passed away.

"Even among the darkest clouds, shine lays of light through someday"

Note: First the info came out to the exile side was that it was a monk who self immolated. However
according to the most updated news,  he was a nomad called Wangchuk Tsetan.