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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

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