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.

24 May 2020

Guennam-Ro Blues 2019 for beloved women, feeling May Gwangju 1980

May is a sad month for many people in Gwangju. 
In May 1980,  students and civilians stood up for calling for a democratic reform against the dictatorship government that lead to the infamous Gwangju massacre.  

In this May,  in the far away land,  I think of women whom I spent a part of my every day life while in Gwangju last year around the Geunnam-Ro ( Ro means a big street in Hanguel), where major protests occurred.  Civilians, students, bus drivers in the buses, trucks, taxis all together marched on this street and shot to ground.  Women at the public bath, women who run small eateries, who were all kind to me, a foreigner who is from the country which had given so much sufferings to their people for decades up till now.  And a statue of a young woman.  A girl. 

One of the most experiences that engraved in my heart was seeing a newly built memorial statue of a ‘comfort woman,’ depicted as a young girl, in Geumnam-Ro Park. I encountered it in 2019 upon my second visit. Such statues are installed in many locations in Korea and abroad, serving as a symbol of remembrance and protest by Korean citizens against the Japanese occupation.  On my way to the host gallery and studio space I was working in, I passed by this statue daily.  The everyday encounter with the statue, time spent with hearty women at the public bath across the street from the park, and working on drawings became my regular routine during my residency.  

“Women and conflicts” permeated the experience and I left Korea that summer with feelings of pain and sorrow.

May is a beautiful season in Gwangju.  Full of green leaves.  Green grass.  Green Mudeun mountain. 
Yet many hearts' hidden wounds start remembering that time when green leaves get softly brown in wind.  

Just after two short visits, my heart aches. Many faces come into my mind.  

The amount of sadness in those who experienced that time is beyond my imagination. 

I can only pray for the true peace, freedom and healing will prevail in this land and in the world. 

2 May 2020

For Women - in Blue ( in progress)

For Women - I started writing.

A degree of feeling is too intense to express. Although a whole body is feeling something.

'Without women' ' threads of lives'
'exploited' 'deep wounds'
'permeates through threads of histories'

All the women in the past and present I met in different countries last year.
Sharing open heartedness and tears.  Their sorrows that occasionally came out touched in a deep place in my achy heart.

Histories of women in conflicts, women who were wounded because they were women.

'empathy' 'reconciliation' 'compassion'

What to be women. 

Since last summer,  I have used only blue in my drawings. 

Blue heals.

1 May 2020

Flowers and Stars for them on Sewol ship - April 16 2014

6년 전, 4월 16일

바다로 사라진 눈물은

밤하늘 가득 별이 되었고

상처로 가득한 마음을 비추는 별은

계속 빛이 나고 또다시 살아난다.

On April 16th, 6 years ago

Tears disappeared into the ocean

Became stars in the night sky

Shining to wounded heart

Stars keep shining and coming back to life again


작년, 제 마음에 깊게 새겨진 기억 중 하나는 진도에 있는 팽목항에 다녀온 것입니다. 나무 언니는 저를 해남에서 목포역까지 차로 데려다주었습니다.

그날 밤은 아마도 보름달이 떠있었던 거 같은데 달빛이 바다 표면에 반사되어 보였습니다. 그 바다에서 목숨을 잃은 많은 아이들이 생각나 가슴 아픈 순간이었습니다. 나무 언니의 슬픈 모습 역시 가슴 아픈 기억으로 남아있습니다.

이것은 그들을 위한 기도입니다.

Last year, one of those memories that were engraved in my heart was passing by Jindo - Paengmok port.
My tree sister was driving me to Mokpo station from Haenam.
It was a night of maybe-a-full moon. The moon was reflecting on the surface of the ocean.
Poignant moment of thinking of young lives who lost their lives near there. A sad profile of Namo unni.

This is an offering and prayers for them.

17 February 2020

Remember Sonam and Choepak Kyap April 19th 2012

For Sonam and Choepak Kyap, who, together, self immolated on April 19 2012 in Barma township, Dzamthang county, Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet.

They carried out their protest close to a local government office.  Although paramilitary troops were deployed immediately, local Tibetans managed to prevent them from taking away their bodies and brought into Jonang Dzamthang Gonchen monastey.  The monks and local people kept gathering at the monastery to offer prayers for them, pushing the deployed troop away.

They were both nomads in their early twenties and were related.

They left a will behind.

" Tibetans have unique religion and culture that is based on a belief that with love and compassion, one should devote himself for others.  However at this moment,  Tibet has been ruled by communist China and are under suppression.  Tibetans' basic human rights were taken and we live in suffering.

With wishes that Tibet will be free and for the world peace, we will self immolate.
The pain of fellow Tibetans whose freedom have been taken is greater than our pain in the flame.

My dear parents, family and siblings, (the fact we will die today) does not mean we do not love you nor we want to be separated from you.  We do not take our lives lightly, either.
We are both clear mentally and with pure heart and thoughts,  we shall carry out this protest so as Tibet will gain its freedom, Buddhism keeps flourishing with wishes for all sentient beings' happiness and the world peace.

Please follow our last wishes  If our bodies are fallen under the Chinese authority, please do not go against them. Our wish is that no Tibetan gets hurt because of our protest.

Whenever you feel sad about our passings, please talk to the teachers and tulks in the monastery.  By doing so, please keep learning your culture and tradition. Please keep your love and trust to your fellow Tibetans, preserve the culture and stay united.  If you keep doing so,  some day,  our dream will come true.

May our last wish come true."

23 January 2020

Eyes of minds. Eyes of hearts. Jogappo 조각보

These eyes are of minds. Of hearts.
Eyes to see what can not to be seen
Eyes to witness injustice
Eyes to feel sufferings of others
Eyes to send prayers

Nyingjey སྙིང་རྗེ་  means 'compassionate empathy'.  I feel your pain. I am here with you.  These eyes are eyes of Nyingjey.   A beautiful Tibetan word that I live with. 

This piece was made for the exhibition in Gwangju, Korea in 2019.  The theme of the exhibition was about Gwangju people's democratic uprising in 1980, which lead to massacre of students and civilians.  In 2018 when a group of friends from Gwangju taught me about the incident and took me to the old cemetery where courageous souls buried,  my heart was shaken like the time I first saw the image of a self immolating monk in 2012.

I was inspired by a traditional patch work in Korea called Jogappo조각
Because not only I had known about and loved this form of Korean craft since I was a young girl but also this form of craft by accumulations of stitching struck me as a metaphor of people lives being together.  In every day life or in the struggle for dignity and freedom. 

20 January 2020

Together-ness (in progress)

While flipping old journals, I found a slogan by Tibetans in exile for a protest. I must have noted it down after being in one protest.
It struck my heart quietly, remembering memories of sharing sadness and being together with Tibetan friends during my long stay in Dharamsala in 2012.

Ma chak ma chak 
Sem chuk
Ma chak

Don’t give up
Give up

Since towards the end of the last year,  I have been painting these blue figures. A phrase 'together, we feel together'  was on my mind during painting with blue.
I was thinking of countless humans who stood up for their freedom to be beaten up, arrested and murdered in many places in 2019 up till now.
Countless humans who are in prison and tortured.
Countless humans, whose basic rights to live with their cultural and social identities are denied and captured in detention. 
Countless women who were and are victims of sex slavery during wars and conflicts, whose dignity, hearts and bodies were broken into pieces.
Countless suffering.

Often the sense of overwhelmingness and helplessness dominate. 
What we can do with our small hands seem to be so limited.

The only thing I can do is to draw these.  To feel them.

Together - ness - to feel pain, to share, to heal, to grow, without any border between you and me.
A wounded tender heart is the strongest, the most courageous and the most compassionate that would never give up to heal and reach out to other hearts.  Hundreds, thousands of tender hearts are even stronger.  There must be a way that we can change how the world is.

Instead of shouting the slogan, we recite one another like a song of clear water and soft breeze.



포기하지 마세요
절다 포기하지 마세요.


note: This caption, too, is still in progress. I am catching words.

12 January 2020

Remember Tenpa Darjey and Chimey Palden March 30 2012

For Tenpa Darjey, 22 yrs old and Chimey Palden, 21 yrs old, who set themselves on fire on March 30 2012  in Barkham, Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet.

They, both monks from Tsodun Kirti Monastery in Barkham, together carried out a protest in front of the prefectural government offices and were taken to the hospital.

Chimey Palden was declared dead on the next day of their self-immolation protest.
Tenpa Darjey passed away on April 7 at a hospital in Ngaba area.

Their bodies were cremated by the Chinese authorities and ashes and remains were handed over to their families after,  despite of fervent requests of their families and the monastery to return their bodies.

March 30, their protest day, happened to be the same day when Jamphel Yeshe's body was carried to  and cremated in Dharamsala after his self immolation protest in New Delhi.

30 December 2019

Remember Sherab, March 28 and Jamphel Yeshi, March 26 2012

For Sherab, a 20 year old monk, who set himself on fire on March 28, 2012 in Cha township,Ngaba,Tibet. 

For Jamphel Yeshi, who set himself on fire  at a demonstration on March 26, 2012 in New Delhi, India.

Sherab passed away on site and the paramilitary police in Ngaba removed his body immediately following his self immolation, ignoring pleas for his body to be handed over to his family. 
He was a monk at the small Ganden Tenpenling monastery in Rauwa since the age of nine and also studied at Kirti monastery in Ngaba. 

Jamphel Yeshe was from Kardze, Kham, Tibet.  He arrived in India several years ago. 
He set himself on fire in the midst of 500 Tibetan demonstrators protesting against the visit by Hu Jintao and ran, engulfed in flames before fellow activists put out the blaze with Tibetan flags and rushed him to hospital. He passed away a few days after. 

The news of  Sherab's self immolation protest and of Jamphel Yeshe's passing at the hospital 
arrived on the same day, March 29th to Tibetan community in exile. 

One passed away in his homeland, another in exile, after crossing many mountains and rivers. 
They were far away, however, their will and spirit were in the same place. 

Jamphel Yeshe gave away all his possessions before he carried out his protest and left his final letter behind.  This letter is for his fellow Tibetans at the same time, it speaks to us, especially when there are millions of people standing up for their justice and freedom at this moment in the world. 

Freedom is the basis of happiness for all living beings. 
Without freedom, six million Tibetans are like a butter lamp in the wind, without direction.
My fellow Tibetans from Three Provinces, it is clear to us all that if we put our strength together,
there will be results. 
So, don't be disheartened. 
(translated by Chuchung D Sonam)

May we have courage to stand up firmly together for fellow brothers and sisters with butter lamps in our palms without being blown in wind. 

28 November 2019

For Yonten November 26 2019

For Yonten, 24 years old, who died in self immolation on November 26 2019 in Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet.
He was a monk at Kirti monastery however disrobed to help his family in their nomadic livelihood.  
He passed away on site after carrying out his protest around 4 pm. 

This marks the 165th Tibetan to self immolate in occupied Tibet and in exile since 2008.

The sad news arrived on the cold winter day.  Cold wind was blowing in the grey sky.
If it is cold here, his hometown must have been much colder there. 

I thought of his passing alone on the far away high plateau.
Hundreds of small streams,green pasture land and mountains are controlled, exploited and divided into pieces just as to the people who belong there. 

I thought of his fellow brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives for dignity and freedom.

I pray for his fellow brothers and sisters who are standing up for dignity and freedom at this moment 
in Tibet and in the world.   Although one knows praying is not enough. 

8 November 2019

Paths - Over Hundreds of Rivers ( Workshop and mini exhibition) in Cheonan City, Republic of Korea, November 2019

For a workshop in Cheonan
천안 워크샵
Title: Paths – Over a Hundred Rivers
제목: 길 - 수 백 개의 강을 건너
In this workshop we will explore themes of reconciliation, healing, empathy, and sustainability through dialogues – our own inner dialogue, as well as dialogues between participants.
이번 워크샵에서 참가자들은 대화를 통해 화해, 치유, 공감, 지속 가능성에 대해 얘기할 것입니다. 각자 내면의 대화를 하게 되고 또 참가자들 간의 대화를 나누게 될 것입니다.
We will use mainly Korean and Japanese paper – as well as other handmade papers – using mixed media techniques such as drawing/painting, stitching, cutting and pasting, collaging, and mending.
주로 한지나 일본 종이를 사용하게 되고 또 다른 핸드메이드 종이를 사용하게 될 것입니다.
드로잉/페인팅, 바느질, 자르기, 붙이기, 콜라주 등 여러 가지 혼합 매체 테크닉을 사용하게 될 것입니다.
Each participant will work on a sheet of paper for their contemplative inner journey with the above themes. At the same time, another set of paper of different sizes and kinds will be provided for participants to apply their preferred technique(s). These will be patched to together to make a ‘chogappo’ (a Korean wrapper traditionally made of fabric).
참가자들은 각자 종이 한 장에 자신의 관조적인 내면 여정을 그려내게 될 것입니다. 참가자들이 각자 선호하는 테크닉에 따라 다른 크기와 종류의 종이가 제공될 것입니다. 완성된 참가자들의 종이는 모두 덧대어져 ‘조각보’로 만들어 지게 됩니다.
As we create, we will think of human right violations, violence and abuses that have caused many wounds and suffering among people -– particularly women in Korea – and other countries. The violence can come from outside forces or from within. In recent years, I have come to know about the Korean democratic struggle, as well as learn about the many people who lost their lives in protests in Taiwan, Tibet, and many other places in the world. My heart has been aching for women who were forced into sex slavery by the Japanese troops during World War II in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, China, and Indonesia.
작업을 하면서 인권 침해, 폭력, 그리고 학대를 통해 사람들이 받은 많은 상처와 고통을 되돌아볼 수 있는 시간이 되었으면 좋겠습니다.
폭력은 외부나 내부 어디서나 일어날 수 있습니다. 저는 최근 한국의 민주화 투쟁에 대해 알게 되었고, 대만, 티베트, 그리고 세계 여러 곳에서 일어난 시위에 목숨을 잃은 많은 사람들에 대해서도 알게 되었습니다. 세계 2차 대전 중 성 노예로 일본 군대에 끌려간 한국, 일본, 대만, 필리핀, 중국, 인도네시아의 많은 여성들에 의해 마음이 너무 아팠습니다.
These situations have been repeated throughout human history and in every part of the world. Why do we destroy and wound fellow humans rather than coexisting peacefully and respecting one another’s cultures? The current world feels chaotic – caused by strong forces of greed, where many of us feel overwhelmed, in despair, and heartbroken. I am one of them.
또 이러한 상황은 인류 역사와 세계 각처에서 늘 반복되어 왔습니다. 왜 우리는 평화롭게 공존하고 서로의 문화를 존중하기보다는 서로를 파괴하고 상처를 입히는 걸까요? 많은 사람들이 강한 힘에 의해 압도당하고 절망하고 비통한 심경을 통해 현재 세계는 혼란스럽게 느껴 집니다. 저도 그들과 같습니다.
Being open-hearted amidst this chaos may be challenging. However, I believe we can find courage to counteract this situation by doing inner reflective work and to make something heart-full and meaningful.
이 혼란 속에서 마음을 트는 것은 어려운 일일지도 모르겠습니다, 그러나 저는 우리가 내면을 들여다보는 작업을 통해 진심 어리고 의미 있는 것을 만듦으로써 세상에서 일어나는 일들에 반성할 수 있는 용기를 찾을 수 있음을 믿습니다.
The reason I am offering this workshop with Korean friends comes from my growing knowledge of the tragedy and pain caused by my ancestors that continues to the present day. Using Korean and Japanese handmade papers is an inspiration that came to my mind one night. It symbolises reconciliation, peace, sharing empathy and love. Handmade papers are also a symbol of sustainability and peace as they do not destroy the natural environment nor people’s minds, unlike our exploitive economic system.
제가 친구들과 이번 워크샵을 진행하게 된 이유는 오늘날 까지 이어지고 있는 선조들의 비극과 고통에 대해 커져 가는 저의 관심에 의해 비롯되었습니다. 어느 날 밤 문득 한지와 일본 핸드메이드 종이를 같이 섞어서 사용하게 되는것이 제 영감이 되었습니다. 각 나라에 종이를 함께 사용하는 자체는 화해 와 평화, 공감과 사랑을 상징합니다. 손으로 직접 공정한 종이는 공장에서 만들어지는 종이와 달리 자연환경이나 노동 착취되는 노동자들의 마음을 파괴하지 않기 때문에 지속 가능성과 평화를 상징하기도 합니다.
+ 동아시아 평화를 기원하는 +
+ 종이조각보 워크샵 + 딮-리스닝 세션 +
+ 이하야 토모요 작가 미니전시 +
<Paths : Over Hundreds of Rivers>
종이조각보 워크숍
2019.11/12(화) 19:00~ : : 시민과 함께
2019.11/13(수) 14:00~ : : 천안지역 이주여성과 함께
2019.11/14(목) 14:00~ : : 시민과 함께
@천안 북카페 산새