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.

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


25 December 2017

For Kunbey, December 23 2017

For Kunbey, around 30 years old, who self immolated on December 23 2017 in Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet.

He set himself on fire near Kirti Monastery, which is known for many monks' self immolations in the past.  The video came out to the exile side shows him walking engulfed in the flame along with a recording of a woman's voice reciting a prayer ' May Gyalwa Rinpoche protect and bless him'.

His body was immediately taken by the security force soon after and admitted to the hospital around 10 pm.  He passed way around 5 a.m on the following day.
His body was cremated right away by the police and only a handful of ashes was returned to the family.

His parents, 5 siblings, and a wife whom he married one year ago are left behind.

It is said that his father is under detention by the police, being forced to cover the cost of the medical expenses while Kunbey spent his last some hours at the hospital.

May all the pains and darkness get eliminated from each of us, each community, society, country, and the earth so as nobody has to sacrifice his life like this.

29 November 2017

For Kusho Tengha November 26 2017

For Venerable Tengha, 63 yrs old monk, who self immolated on November 26 2017 in Karze, Kham, Tibet. 

According to a witness, he called for freedom for Tibet and return of Gyalwa Rinpoche while being engulfed in flame.  He died on site and the security force took his body right away.

He became a monk at very young age at Karze Monastery when his parents both passed away.
He was in charge of organising prayer sessions and rites in nearby villages and was a well respected figure by local people.

20 November 2017

Three kinds of water in Tibet

Ama la is from Tsang, Tibet. I have known her and her family for over 10 years.  

She escaped to India from Tibet in 1959 and is one of that first hardcore generation of Tibetan refugees  who had to undergo unimaginable hardships in order to be able to rebuild their lives in the new and unknown land of India. Even after the trauma of having to escape from their native homelands, so many of their generation died afterwards from illness, disease, malnutrition and grief.

She is the one of the beloved elderly Tibetans who taught me the value of sharing, kindness, strength and power of practice.  Despite enduring inconceivable hardships,   she maintained all beautiful human qualities till she passed away.

When I think of her, I think of the many stories and meals that she offered me. When I heard of her passing from across two great oceans,  the first story that came up in my mind was about water in Tibet:

Water in Tibet is better than milk in India.
There are three qualities of water in Tibet.
The first one is water from a glacier.
The second one is from a stream.
The third one is from a spring. 
Each water has healing property, especially one from a glacier.
By drinking it, a sick person gets healed.
All sources are sacred with spirits living within, 
so we shall not contaminate such water.

Ama la managed to return to Tibet in the 80s when the political situation in Tibet softened for a short period of time.
One of her children, who is now a monk with a Geshe degree, told me that the first thing she did when she saw a stream was to run to it and scoop up some water with her hands to drink it.  She was overjoyed.  

Only this one time could she go back to Tibet in almost 60 years in exile.  

Ama la a safe journey to the next. 
May mountains, glacier, rivers, streams, and every being in your homeland
remain clear and vital despite of destructions so as you can go back to drink water that heals again. 

アマラ(チベット語でお母さん)はチベットのツァン出身。彼女と 彼女の家族と知り合ってもう10年以上になります。

アマラは 1959年、中国共産党のラサ侵略、ダライ・ラマ法王の亡命を機にインドに逃れ 慣れない土地で苦汁の生活を強いられた チベット人一世のひとりです。

アマラから 分け合うこと、親切、慈悲、忍耐、信じることの力 の価値を身をもって おしえてもらいました。彼女は 何人かの私の愛し尊敬する チベットの気骨のある老人たちの一人です。私の想像を絶する苦労をしてきたにもかかわらず、人間性のすばらしいところをすべて備えておられました。
その何人かも母国の土を踏むことなく近年次々亡くなり、アマラの訃報も 大洋をこえて 最近伝わってきました。

彼女のことを思うとき、まず心に浮かぶのが 何年か前に話してくれた

チベットの水は、インドの乳より おいしい。
最後に 湧き水

アマラは 1980年代、一度チベットに戻ることができました。
アマラは故郷の大地を歩いているとき、せせらぎを見つけて、よろこびに我を忘れて 岸辺にかけより、手で水をすくって飲んだと、彼女の子供たちの一人で 今は仏教の博士号をもつお坊さんの友人が話してくれました。彼女が少女にように水に駆け寄る姿が目に浮かんだのを覚えています。

亡命の生活の60年あまりで、 故郷に戻れたのはその一回きり。

母国の大地、山、川、水が 無意味で無謀な開発にもかかわらず 強く