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.

10 September 2018

Remember Gepey, March 10 2012

For Gepey, a 18 yrs old monk from Kirti Monastery, who self immolated on March 10 2012 in Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet.

Gepey set himself ablaze in the late afternoon near the first military base set up by the People's Liberation Army upon arriving in the area in 1950, which is 1.5 km away from Kirti monastery.

Soldiers took Gepey's body into the base, and some local Tibetans confronted them, seeking the return of the body to his family.
Officials did give Gepey's body back to the Tibetans, but also specified that Gepey should be cremated the same day and in the presence of no more than five relatives, disrespecting the customary funeral rights of Tibetans.

Tibetans believe it is important to carry out prayer rituals after death in order to ensure a peaceful transition for the person in to their next life. In Tibetan culture, for this reason, the body of a person who has died should be disturbed as little as possible.

In case of Tibetans who have self immolated, many Tibetans believe that they were giving their lives as a form of dedication, or to be of benefit to others, and so it becomes even more important for the bodies to be returned for prayer ceremonies.

It is not known if Gepey deliverately chose this date to mark the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising, and the forth anniversary of the protests beginning on March 10, 2008.

Captions from:

Flames of the Homeland by Tsering Woeser, Translated by Ian Boyden

I am sharing the poem of Tsering Woeser, which has been translated into English by Ian Boyden, 

a visual artist, translator, and writer.  He has worked with Tsering Woeser for many years and 

has recently been awarded NEA Literature Translation Fellowship to translate the poetry of Tsering Woeser.   

For more information about his work, please go to

Flames of the Homeland

March is peculiar.
The sweeping winds are long in coming,
and dust-filled air obscures a flame
in my homeland.
From where I sit, my view is limited,
the flame bright then dark. But even if I were nearby
I couldn’t approach it.
To behold such a sight
would break my heart.

Even more houses destroyed
by an invisible hand.
Even more prayers disappeared
in the din of harsh and alien accents.
Even more pillaging and unstoppable negotiations.
Drifting, destitute and homeless.
This world of dust, a story
full of grief.

From where I sit
at the window
on the twenty-first floor of a highrise,
it is as though I’ve placed myself
in a perilous frame
of the twenty-first century.
No need to distance myself.
The flames are almost within reach
but obscure.

Outside the window, the poison air
seethes and boils.
No wonder all the living creatures
of this country rot
one after another.

I bow my head to record
my homeland’s flames
that spark suddenly and extinguish suddenly. 
One by one by one, one hundred fifty-
two flames and counting, unstoppable.[1] 
But there’s not a sound to be heard.
I think of the poet Pasternak,[2]
who wrote “dipping my pen into ink,
I can not help
but cry.”

And I also see this:
in the ashes,
a reborn soul
beautiful beyond compare.

—Tsering Woeser
March 25, 2017, Beijing

[1] The flames in this poem are the flames of Tibetan self-immolators. Since 2008, a wave of self-immolation has swept across Tibet, to date 152 individuals have burned themselves alive, many of them Buddhist monks. The majority of these self-immolations have been expressions of political protest against China’s occupation of Tibet, as well as its oppression and systematic destruction of Tibetan culture. Woeser discusses this topic in her extraordinary book Tibet on Fire (Verso Books, 2016).

[2] This line is from Boris Pasternak’s poem “February” written in 1912. There are many translations of this poem into English, however, they are all quite different from how the poem was rendered in Chinese. So, to this end, I have translated the Chinese translation of this poem, as it carries a tone not present in English translations made directly from the original Russian.

19 August 2018

Remember Dorjee March 5 2012

For Dorjee, 18 years old, who self immolated on March 5 2012 in Cha, Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet.

Dorjee set himself on fire around 6:30 pm and walked towards the local government office in Cha township.  He shouted slogans against the Chinese government policy on Tibet.  It is believed that he died at the scene, and that authorities took away his body.

His body was scarcely visible as the flames around him were so fierce.
Many people on the street were reciting mantras and praying to Gyalwa Rinpoche with tears and grief in their eyes ( reported one of the witnesses).

Note: Drawings that are titled 'Remember' are for people who had carried out the protest before I started drawing for each person who self immolated, which was May 2012 ( For Dargye. For Dorje Tseten. For Rikyo and Tamdin Thar ).

For 'Remember' series, I went to back to 2009 and started drawing for Tapey, the Kirti monk, who first self immolated and slowly drawing for each chronologically up to date.

11 June 2018

Art Exhibition - 'Ninjye 共鳴・ 共苦@AHHA Gallery, Gwangju, Korea June 15 to 30 2018

AHHA Gallery in Gwangju, Korea is hosting a solo exhibition of the recent works of mine, that are composed with the theme of migration, refugee crisis, and a cycle of life and death including a few works related with 'Drawings from Dharamsala". 

The occasion came up and quickly organised by a passionate and well respected independent art writer/editor, Jin Yongju. He and his friends came to see both exhibitions at Wakayama Art Museum ( Tokyo) and Volvox Gallery ( in Tsu city, Mie) in this past March and April. Both visits were such special occasions and after some meaningful conversations, did he offer and organise the exhibition.

This exhibition will be a combination of works from both Wakayama Art Museum and Volvox Gallery. I will try to merge them into a new form of visual poems/thoughts - water, eyes, blue, small land(life)scapes - probably I will add a few drawings that I did while I was in Ladakh in this past May this time. By the way, according to Mr. Jin, the between the title and my name, it says 'to know Tibet" in Hangul.

My deep gratitude goes to Mr. Jin Yongju, his friends, and AHHA Gallery.

最近のテーマである 亡命、難民クライシス、生きるということを中心に新しく日本での個展の為に今年制作したものに、’ダラムサラからの絵’のシリーズからも何点かくわえたものです。

この機会は 韓国の経験の深いアート•ライター兼エディターである ジン•ヨンジュさんのご尽力で実現することになりました。彼は’ダラムサラからの絵’をずっとフォローしていてくださったようです。この度韓国の友人と一緒に、先3月と4月に 開催された東京の若山美術館と 三重の津市のヴォルボックスギャラリーの個展に韓国から来てくださいました。短い訪問の間にもとてもいいお話ができて その後も会話がつづいていたのですが、今回このような運びになり心から感謝しております。

今回の個展は 若山美術館とヴォルボックスギャラリーで見せた作品を 空間に合わせて 再構築(というと おおげさですが)して見せたいとおもっております。ちなみに 題と私の名前のあいだには ’チベットを知る’という一言がはいっているそうです。

ハングルがわかる方、どうぞ案内 をご高覧下さい。

9 March 2018

For Tsekho Tukchak March 7 2018

For Tsekho Tukchak, who self immolated on March 7th 2018 in Meruma township, Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet.

Tsekho, in his 40s, set himself on fire at around 5 pm in the town.  He died on spot.
According to the report,  he screamed 'Long life, Gyalwa Rinpoche' and 'Freedom for Tibet' while being engulfed in the flame.

His protest came three days ahead of the 59th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day (March 10th, 1959) and the 10th anniversary of the 2008 pan-Tibet uprising.  It is said that he carried his protest prior to the date to avoid the tightest security on March 10th.

He is survived by his mother, his wife, and two daughters.

26 January 2018

Crossing The Border

Crossing The Border  

Creeping in the nights, hiding in the days,
We reached the snow mountains after twenty nights.
The border was away by several days still.
The rugged terrain withered us to strains.

Over our head a bomber flew,
My children shrieked in fear,
I covered them under my bosom.
Exhaustion tore my limbs apart,
But my mind warned me.
We must go on or die here.
A daughter here, a son there,
A baby on my back,
We reached the snowfields.

Through many monstrous mountains we crawled,
Whose death-blankets often
covered travellers passing by.

In the middle of the white killing fields,
A heap of frozen corpses
Set out weakening spirit trembling.
Blotches of blood spattered the snow.
The army men must have crossed their path.
Our land has fallen to the red dragons.
We prayed the ‘Yishin Norbu’.
With hope in our hearts,
Prayers on our lips,
Hardly anything to eat,
with only ice to quench out thirst,
We crawled for nights together.

Then, one night, my daughter
complained about a burning foot.
She stumbled and rose again on her frost-bitten leg.

Peeled and slashed with deep bloody cuts,
She reeled and writhed in pain.
By the next day both her legs were severed.
Gripped by death all around,
I was a helpless mother.
‘Amala, save my brothers,
I shall rest here for a while’
Till I could no longer see her fading figure,
Till I could no longer hear her fainting wails,
I kept looking back in tears and agony.
My legs carried me, but my spirit remained with her.

Long after in exile, I can still see her
Waving her frost-bitten hands to me.
Eldest home must have been tough for her.
Every night I light a lamp for her,
And her brothers join me in prayer.

Poem by Tenzin Tsundue 

Tenzin Tsundue is a Tibetan poet born in exile in India, during the chaotic period of Tibetan refugee resettlement in the early seventies. He did his schooling in Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV), Pathlikuhl and later in Dharmasala.
Write to Tenzin Tsundue at: Note:  I owe much to this poem in process of making a mixed media installation completed in 2014 to 2016, which includes cut-out blue legs, symbolising crossing the snowy mountains to the free land, and cut-out blue arms, reaching to loved ones far beyond the borders or died in crossing the border. 

25 January 2018

The World's Third Pole

Our land
Ten thousands of glaciers
Hundreds of the snow-capped mountains
Origins of great rivers

Sacred water that has nourished pastures, animals, and us, humans for thousands of years

Glaciers are melting
Mountains and the earth are dug
Water is poisoned

And our pastures are fenced

Just as our lives