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.

6 April 2022

For Tsering Samdup March 30 2022

 For Tsering Samdup, who self immolated on March 30 in Kyegudo, Kham, Tibet. 
His protest took place around 4 pm in front of a police station near a Buddhist monastery. 

According to an anonymous source from exile, Tsering was a very well-educated person and upon his protect, he was immediately taken away by the Chinse police and no one is allowed to meet or inquire about him. 

Note: the CTA report only confirmed the time and place of the incident and said no verifiable information is currently available on the name and background of the self-immolator. Following the news of self-immolation that surfaced on Wednesday, as many as 159 Tibetans since 2009 have now resorted to setting themselves on fire, as a radical form of protest against the Chinese occupation of Tibet.


5 April 2022

For Tashi Phuntsok March 27 2022

 For Popo Tashi Phuntsok, 81 years old, who self immolated on March 28 2022 in Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet. 

Tashi Phuntsok, known as Taphun, set himself on fire around 5 am local time on March 27th in frotn of the Public Secutiry Bureau office at Kirti Monastery in Ngaba. According to a reliable source, right after his protest, the CCP police took his body away to an undisclosed location where he passed away later. 

Taphun is said to have held great concerns about the future of Tibet.  

"Since the sun of happiness will certainly shine over Tibet with the blessings of His Holiness the Dalai lama, young Tibetans should not lose heart!"  - the words spoken by him to guests at his 80th birthday celebration last year.  

5 March 2022

For Tsewang Norbu March 4th 2022 ( February 25, 2022)

 For Tsewang Norbu, 26 years old, who carried out a self-immolation protest in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa on February 25th 2022. He passed away on March 4th, the second day of Tibetan Losar.  

He was a popular singer and composer of modern, ethnic, popular, traditional songs such as 'Tsampa", "Dress Up" and "Except You" among many that were popular among the Tibetan community at home and abroad. 

The comment section of Norbu's social media accounts have been deactivated due to abundant inflow of condolence messages, while many of his songs are now removed from many Chinese music apps. 

The Potala Palace was the winter palace of historic Dalai Lamas from 1649 until 1959, when the current Dalai Lama fled to India after an uprising against Chinese rule over the formerly independent Himalayan region, triggering a crackdown in which the palace was shelled and thousands were killed by Chinese communist troops in March 1959. 

Source:  RFA English ( Tibet)  -link will be posted later

24 January 2022

Tree of Life

At this moment,  there are people who struggle to live.  
There are people who live in extreme pain. 

Those who stood up to defend freedom but in vain. 
Those who escaped their homelands to find refuges but in vain. 
Those who live under the threats of bombing and no food, water, and shelters. 
Those whose rights to speak their language and to believe their belief are taken. 

They live far away.  How do I reach out to them?  Praying is not enough, I know. 

I live in rather safe territory where there is no immediate threat to live.  
Daily flood of human right abuses, arrests, violence and refuge crises is overwhelming. 

Recently I find it painful to draw feeling pain of fellow beings.  
But my pain in process of drawing their sufferings is no comparison with their pains. 

A memory of being in Luang Prabang came up. 
An old capital in Laos on the shore of Mekong River where I spent some time more than 20 years ago. 
The mosaic mural of Tree of Life at Wat Xieng thong was my refuge.  
I used to walk up to the hill where the temple stood and would look up the mural often in owe. 

I drew the tree wishing this tree grows in every being in struggle and give them new lands and new lives. 

5 October 2021

"Whose Stories" @ Kamloops Art Gallery

 "Whose Stories", curated by Makiko Hara, is up on view at Kamloops Art Gallery. Along with 5 artists' works, there are 17 works ( mixed media drawings, installations and a video) from "Drawings from Dharmsala" and "Gwangju - City of Light" created between 2012 to 2019.

"Reflecting on the experiences and narratives of "others", 'Whose Stories?' shares the work of six artists of Asian descent. Through video installation, photography, animation, print media, drawing, collage, and restored ceramic works, artists Diyan Achjadi, Load na Dito, Naoko Fukumaru, Tomoyo Ihaya,Mark Salvatus, and UJINO convey personal histories told within a community of artists and woven across generations."
Much gratitude for all the professional and sincere work to: Makiko Hara and everybody at KAG; Charo Neville, Krystyna Halliwell, Garnet Dirksen, Matthew Trembley, Emily Hope and Rachel Thompson.
Heart felt congratulations to Makiko Hara and all artists.
Here are some gallery shots and my thoughts below.

The most of works included in this exhibition were made while/after I stayed in the Tibetan community (Dharamsala) in exile in India in 2012. Self immolation protests in Tibet were happening every few days at peak. Other two are related with Gwangju, Republic of Korea and Taiwan where I stayed, made art related with their human rights related struggles and exhibited those works.
Since these visits, I carry so many faces and hearts of people whom I met in my heart. Some have passed away without going back home. Younger friends who live in exile and can not see their families back in their homeland. Never erased wounds after witnessing their comrades died in protest.
I always feel those works are physically drawn by my existing body but emotionally/mentally drawn together with these friends whom I came across in my nomadic life. I learned about their lives, and pain, shared food and laughters, and shed tears together and I owe them lots.
So at this occasion, I feel touched as if their lives were acknowledged and felt by other humans in such a far away place where a history of a tremendous suffering has been recognised recently as well.

3 October 2021

Update: "Migration" by Fight With A Stick , inspired by Video "Eyes Water Fire"

Delia Brett and 'Sadhu' under the white canopy ( mountain or white cloud)
@EDAM, spring 2021

Introducing a collaborative project which started in late 2020.
Dialogues between Alex Lazaridis, an artistic director of Fight With A Stick and Delia Brett, a dancer/producer started much earlier when we first met and they were introduced to my short animation 'Eyes Water Fire" (2016)*.

Alex proposed to create a performance that is a collaboration among performers, sound, light and my art works. For about 4 months since January of 2021, I created art works in much bigger scale than usual. Those are of significant symbols in the video: Blue ( migrating ) legs, eyes ( of witnessing and praying), butter lamps as paper boats, a felted figure as a self immolating person( a revived old work) and a huge paper lantern (snowly mountain). During our experimental sessions, performers, Delia Bret and Diego Romeo, moved among/with the art works while sound and light were experimented by James Maxwell and Parjad Sharifi.

It has been such a profound experience to work with a wonderful group of artists with deep sensitivities and insights. It is amazing to see how one short video can be deepened and expanded in multi-dimensions with many creative hands and eyes.

Attached are some photos from the experimental sessions and of art works created.

Because of the pandemic circumstance and my other commitments, the performance will not be in public till early next year.
I do hope that it can be shown under a relatively normal circumstance next year and many of you can come to see it. I will keep you posted here and on social media.

The below is the excerpt of the description from the website of Fight With A Stick. Website link is below.

A personal sacrifice for the good of all. A surrender of body, self, and mind. Feel this burning moment. Migration is a transdisciplinary collaboration with visual artist Tomoyo Ihaya and is based on her work Eyes Water Fire. The project continues Fight With a Stick's collaborative explorations with other-than-human materialities.
The development phase began in November 2020 and ended in May 2021. Full production has been delayed due to the pandemic but we are hoping to bring the show to live audiences in late 2021 or early 2022.

Workshop collaborators: Tomoyo Ihaya (visual artist), Alex Lazaridis (director), Delia Brett (choreographer-performer), James Maxwell (sound design), Parjad Sharifi (light and projection design), Taiga Chiba (carpentry), Sooyeon Goo (assistant to Tomoyo), Mona Lisa Ali (video animation), Diego Romero (performer). Special thanks to EDAM dance."

*Eyes Water Fire is a short animation in which I tried to express meaning of living, empathic compassion and human dignity that I 'experienced' through painful situations in Tibet such and living with Tibetan friends in exile closely. Although my 'experience' is indirect and I can never feel the same pain that many of them went through, I was moved by something to make this video.

To view "Eyes Water Fire"           
Website: Fight With A Stick
Trans is being created for a digital video format. It is in early development stages and is planned for release online in late 2021.

Eye cloud from the May experimental session, May 2021
                                                                                Eyes and Blue legs

24 August 2021

Mother, I am happy - Tsering Kyi

Mom, I'm happy.

 Tsering Kyi said this before returning to the school dormitory.

"That's funny," thought Dolma, Tsering's mother. "I can't believe she does not even need her favorite fried bread." 

The next day, high school student Tsering Kyi set fire to herself in a town several kilometers away from home in protest of the Chinese government's Tibetan policy. Said Dolma, "I didn't notice." 

An insult to the prairie divided by barbed wire, their own language, and prayers. How hurtful it was for her to witness the harsh government's policy? How determined were you to keep in your heart? It was not until Tsering Kyi’s soul rose to the sky that she realized that the word was "goodbye." 

Tsering Kyi, who loves Tibetan and writes better than anyone else. Her Tibetan folk songs touched and shook people's hearts more than anyone else. The spirit of Tsering Kyi, who took on the burden of Tibetan people, smiles in the Tibetan sky connected to the sky.

"Mom, I'm happy." 










22 August 2021

Paths - River and light


Carry me to a refuge

where I can rest without hiding
where there is clean water and enough to eat
where I can be the sunshine and the moonlight in the clear air
Land of freedom and joy


Please do not get angry with us
Flow softly with reflection of the sunshine on each of your ripple
remind us a greater cycle of living and dying with your thousands of wings 

A greater meaning of life


12 April 2021

For Kunchok Jinpa "Even if they arrest me, I am not afraid. even if they kill me, I have no regrets"

 For Konchok Jinpa, 51 years old, who passed away on February 6 2021 due to ill-treatment and torture in the prison.

"I am now at the bank of a river. There are many people behind me watching me, and I am sure to be arrested. Even if they arrest me, I am not afraid, even if they kill me, I have no regrets. But from now on, I will not be able to give reports. If there is no word from me, that means I have been arrested.”

These were the last words that Kunchok Jinpa shared on social media. The Tibetan tour guide was sentenced to 21 years imprisonment for giving information to foreign media about a protest against planned mining on a sacred mountain.

Kunchok Jinpa’s arrest stemmed from protests against a mining project at Naghla Dzambha Mountain in Driru in 2013. According to Tibet Watch’s sources, local authorities tried to begin mining activities at the Naghla Dzambha Mountain in October 2013. The mountain is considered a holy and sacred site and the plans to carry out mining there prompted thousands of Tibetans to protest. The demonstrations were met with a violent crackdown in which thousands were arrested. Kunchok Jinpa shared information of these non-violent protests with the Tibetan community in India. He also called for environmental protection and a ban on mining in the region.

Meanwhile, Driru County remains subjected to harsh measures including further mass arrests, more intensive surveillance measures and numerous propaganda campaigns.

During the 2013 protests, all communication channels were restricted and the Internet was shut down. Villagers were forced to fly the Chinese flag outside their home and those Tibetans who refused to comply were arrested. Protests spread to other parts of the region. Due to the severe restrictions and block on communications, the whereabouts and condition of thousands of those who have been arrested in these protests remains unknown to this day.

Kunchok Jinpa’s family members were not informed of his arrest, or of his secret trial, in which he was found guilty of leaking state secrets and handed a sentence of 21 years in prison.

(caption borrowed from Student Free Tibet India's post)

30 January 2021

For Tenzin Nyima and all stood up with him

 For Tenzin Nyima, 19 year old monk, who passed away from injuries inflicted on him in prison on  in Wonpo township, Kham, Tibet on January 19th 2021.

On November 7 2019, Tenzin Nyima, aka Tamey, carried out a peaceful demonstration with four young monks outside of the local police station, throwing leaflets in the air, calling for Tibet's independence. All were arrested. 

After military troops were deployed in the area following their protest, two other Tibetans were arrested on November 21 2019 for holding a similar protest to express their solidarity to monks arrested on November 7th. 

He was released in May 2020 but re-arrested on August 11 2020 for sharing the news of his arrest and contacting Tibetans in exile in India.

In October 2020, he was returned to his family as the police informed that his health had deteriorated.  The family gathered all fund to get him costly treatments for him but in vain. 

He passed away at his family home on January 19 2021. 

In November and December 2020, the other protesters in Dza Wonpo village had a secret trial by the local People's Court.  Kunsal, Choegyal and Yonten were sentenced four years with a crime of 'inciting separatism. Sotra was sentenced three years in prison, Tsultrim for one year in prison. Another monk called Nyimay was sentenced five years in prison for leaking information to social media. 

"The spirit and dignity of Tibetan people is in our blood and can never be extinguished".  

-A statement posted on social media by the second group which carried out the solidarity protest on November 21 2019, prior to their action. 

May justice prevail so as they are all free in the peaceful land.