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 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. 

21 January 2021

New Video "To Live"

still images from "To Live"       copy right :Tomoyo Ihaya 2021

Video "To Live" is complete with sound and you can view on my Vimeo site. ( for " To Live") ( Tomoyo Ihaya, all videos)

The inspiration came when I visited, had exhibitions and workshops in Taiwan and Korea between 2017 and 2019. Especially my visit in Korea and Taiwan in 2019 was a trigger to start learning in depth about women in trans-generational conflicts.

I met many women who taught me both countries' histories of pain and struggles. To touch the issue of what is called 'Comfort Women' ( I am not a fan of this wording) is very sensitive and difficult because of complex social and political conflicts up to present.
However, just as I felt and shared thoughts and heart felt tears with my fellow female friends, I rather wanted to focus on feeling 'grand mothers' by reading real stories by them who spoke up their pain with courage in Taiwan and Korea ( at large other Asian countries). They spoke up in wishing this would never happen again to other women (Late Harumoni Bog-don Kim said that clearly).
And knowing violences and exploitation to women continue in so many levels in every part of the world, I wanted to make something to bring healing and empathy.
I felt so much sadness while reading episodes....and often wondered how I could express this even though I had never gone through as they did.

And I still wonder how we bring collective healing and least sufferings to all fellow sentient beings.

Much gratitude to Kunsang, Yi-Chan for doing such a moving work.

Kunsang did two other videos' editing and compositing and always made my still drawings into something different and moving.

I was introduced to Yi-Chan through Prof Wendy Lai. She understood the sensitivity and feelings of the video and contemplated well to make beautiful, somber and moving sound.

To Live
Drawing and scripts: Tomoyo Ihaya
Compositing and editing: Kunsang Kyirong
Sound: Yi-Chan Li
Voices at the last scenes:
Grandma A Tao Huang from "Grandma's Secret"
Harumoni Bog-don Kim from the interview clip by Asia Boss
Special thanks to:
Prof. Wen-Shu Lai for giving me stories and video links of interview
Newton Siao for translating all Taiwanese Ama ( Grandmothers') stories into English, although it was emotionally difficult for him.
Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation
for giving a permission to use a voice from their video
and for supporting this video

Artist would like to acknowledge a support of the Canada Council for the Arts

14 January 2021

For Shurmo, who had self immolated on 17 September 2015 ( confirmed on January 12 2021)

                                                                                                                                  For Shurmo,  Copy Right Tomoyo Ihaya 2021

For Shurmo, a 26 years old, who had self immolated on September 17 2015 protesting against CCP's repressive policies in Tibet. 

The protest took place around 1 pm local time nearby a bus station in Chagchukha Village in Driru County, Nagchu in Tibet.  Police arrested Shurmo immediately after his protest and he was taken to a local hospital but he passed away on the same day.  

There were many Tibetan eyewitnesses. However due to the immediate shutdown/censorship with means of communication,  the news did not arrive the Tibetan in exile community till now, more than five years later. 

It is said that police also arrested three of his relatives and till date, there is no information whether the three are still detained, sentenced or released. 

Shurmo belonged to Shagchukha Village in Nagchu county.  His picture did not come with the news. 

News source:  Central Tibet Administration's site:

10 December 2020

Raise Prayer Flags - on International Human Rights Day, December 10 2020


      Raise Prayer Flags  Mixed media on Japanese paper 2020  copy right Tomoyo Ihaya

Each human being is born to be free. 

Freedom.  Dignity. Equality. 

Universal value of human race across the boarder. 

Freedom of a body from illegal arrests, detention and torture

Freedom of ideology, conscience, religion and expression

Do not use one's freedom and rights to harm others' freedom and rights. 

- Words borrowed from the summary of the World Human Rights Declaration 

Back in April, I read news on the online news site in Tibetan-in-Exile community: In Amdo the local Religious Affairs Control Bureau announced that prayer-flags, one of the most widespread and traditional manifestation of religious devotion were forbidden.  

When I read the news, I looked outside and gazed the prayer flags in my balcony. I am not a Tibetan but know how important it is to raise prayer flags at their homes, temples, and passes on an auspicious day. My heart ached with somber. 'They even do not have freedom to raise player flags?  It is almost like having no freedom to recite mantras". 

Prayer flags are believed to spread prayers with wind to the world. 
It is a genuine form of people's prayers for every sentient being to be well and happy. 

Raising prayer flags, thus, became a part of my life routine for many years. 

Since April, there have been news of illegal arrests, detentions of and deaths caused by torture among not only Tibetan people but also the 'ethnic minority' people and political activists in other parts of the world. Each time I read the news, I look at prayer flags outside. I see many faces in the air, in the sky.
A vision of prayer flags that I carried in my mind finally came out as this drawing on International Human Rights Day.
I wish that every single human in struggle brings back their freedom and rights to express what their hearts want to believe.
I keep raising prayer flags for prayers to reach near and far.

A question myself: would I have enough courage to raise player flags and express my belief if I were under the same suppressive situation as they are?  

notes:  source: phayul,Declaration%20of%20Human%20Rights%20%28UDHR%29.%20-%20%C2%A9Amnesty%20International

 (amnesty international, International Human Rights Declaration)

(Amnesty International in Japanese)

9 December 2020

Vessels - To live

      vessels, mixed media on Japanese paper, 2011   Copyright Tomoyo Ihaya

      Vessels, Mixed media on Japanese paper, 2015  copy right  Tomoyo Ihaya

 A vessel as a metaphor of a life.  A metaphor of a mind. 

While spending so much time in India,  my eyes were always caught a pile of clay pots on a street. 
Clay pots for chai.  Once finished, it is thrown away to the ground.  Broken pieces. 

There is a Dharma teaching that I really like and stay as a pillar reminder in my heart for many years.

"If your mind as a vessel has a crack or it is always up side down,  even though there is a precious teaching in front of you, it leaks off the crack or can not contain it. "

This year, more so because of the chaos, the world of up side down,  I thought of this teaching often. 

So many vessels in the world were cracked or put up side down by a huge storm. 

I keep thinking how we can mend those vessels together.  Collective healing.

Not for humans only.  For every living form that humans have damaged too. 

17 October 2020

The Unforgettable Faces : Artist Notes on Ms. Yoonmi Jeon and the work. Title: Peace River – Bridge – Reaching out hands Tributes to (Ms) Yoomi Jeon. Prayers to peace and reunification in the Korean Peninsula

 From the top:  
diagram for an installation as I could not go to Korea to do so. 

Production in progress in March and in July 2020.  It took 6 months to complete.

Details of Peace River

Lightful Peninsula ( a smaller work) 

A detail shot of the smaller Korean Peninsula, "Lightful Peninsula" has 5 bridges on it. Each bridge was drawn by my Korean friends in Korea and in Vancouver, printed out on Korean paper in small scale, and was laminated onto the map around the "38".  Bridges for a symbol of the ultimate reunification. 

Bak, Sosan
Choi, Sinae
Goo, Sooyeon
Lee, Myoung Jae
Pheon, Solan 
Goo, Sooyeon

I attach my artist note below: Artist Notes on Ms. Yoonmi Jeon and the work.


Artist Notes on Ms. Yoonmi Jeon and the work.

Title: Peace River – Bridge – Reaching out hands
Tributes to (Ms) Yoomi Jeon (and prayers to peace and reunification in the Korean Peninsula.)

In the spring of 2020, Ms. Youngme Moon, the chief curator at Lee Hanyeol Memori-al Museum, sent me the following description, “The person about whom you are making art is Ms. Jung Yoomi, a Korean American, who devoted her life to bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula by bridging the gap between South and North Korea”.
In addition, I obtained photos and write ups from Ms. Moon and Mr. Ik Tae Kim (Ms. Jung’s friend) and a speech by Mr. Klein, Ms. Jeon’s partner. For almost 6 months, I lived closely with these photos and writings in my studio and from this experience I grew to feel that she was an open, warm hearted, passionate woman who was both empathetic and compassionate and possessed a strong sense of justice and a will-ingness to stand up for injustice.
Because of the pandemic and the lock down, I spent time by myself reading about her and imagining her nature and life, and studying about Korean War in depth.

To understand her life was to understand the Korean War and the Japanese occupa-tion of the Korean Peninsula in 1910 and all of the pain that the Korean people went through. It was brutal and merciless. While reading and talking with Korean friends about the Japanese occupation and the Korean war, I became sorrowful and heavy hearted with a strong sense of guilt about what my mother land had done to the people and land of the Korean Peninsula. Often I could not stop sobbing. It was a difficult process emotionally, mentally and physically to make art about her life of activism for her people and country because it was a tragedy caused by my country.

While contemplating how to represent her life and the theme of peace and reunifi-cation into a work of art and out of feeling such pain, the colour of white and a map of Korea as Jogappo and bridges transpired.

White to me is the colour of peace. Also, I read more than once, that Korean people are known to love the colour of white. Since I was young I have loved Jogappo, a traditional Korean patchwork, created by a member in each family as a pure art form and a symbol of everyday living. Making a map of the Korean Peninsula in the same manner as a Jogappo felt like a symbol of unity of many lives. Bridges came to mind as they can bring people on two sides together.

My initial vision was to have the Korean Peninsula, her portrait in Hanbok and her holding small bridges in her hands.

Later hands became an important symbol because of a Korean friend’s words. He expressed to me, “ What we need more is to touch (embrace) each other and hold each other’s hands, more than bridges.” I never forgot his face when he expressed his feelings so in end I added many cut out hands that reach out from south and north Korea to touch each other in the river.

Lastly a river of white waves, came to me after my Japanese friend introduced me to a song called “Imjin River” sung in both in Hanguel and Japanese. This song was about yearning for reuniting with loved one, wishing their dreams to the Imjin River of clear water.

The 6th Unforgettable Faces@Lee Hanyeol Memorial Museum "Peace and Reunification", Seoul, Republic of Korea: September 24 to December 31 2020


Lee Hanyeol Memorial Museum in Seoul, Republic of Korea is opening an annual thematic exhibition called 'The 6th Unforgettable Faces'. I am humbled to be included in this exhibition as one of 5 artists.

Every year, under a theme, the museum chose 5 to 6 artists and Koreans who devoted their lives for Korean societies. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean War and they set a theme 'Peace and Reunification" and chose activists who spent their lives for peaceful resolutions in Korean Peninsula.

Five 'faces' are:
Kim Sun Myong
Jeong Soon Deck
Lim Mi Young
Jeong Yoomi
Kim Seung Gyo

Five artists are:
Sun Mu
Noh Won Hee
Kim Ok Sun
Ihaya, Tomoyo
Kim Ji Gon

Lee Han Yeol Memorial Museum is a museum to remember and celebrate the life and the heroic death of student Lee Han Yeol. He was hit by tear gas canister in June 1987. This incident sparked the June Democratic Uprising bringing democracy to South Korea. Please visit our website to learn more about it at

Here is a person for whom I made art works for, title and a background of her. 

Title: Peace River – Bridge – Reaching out hands
Tributes to (Ms) Yoomi Jeon (and prayers to peace and reunification in the Korean Peninsula.)

"In the spring of 2020, Ms. Youngme Moon, the chief curator at Lee Hanyeol Memori-al Museum, sent me the following description, “The person about whom you are making art is Ms. Jung Yoomi, a Korean American, who devoted her life to bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula by bridging the gap between South and North Korea”.
In addition, I obtained photos and write ups from Ms. Moon and Mr. Ik Tae Kim (Ms. Jung’s friend) and a speech by Mr. Klein, Ms. Jeon’s partner. For almost 6 months, I lived closely with these photos and writings in my studio and from this experience I grew to feel that she was an open, warm hearted, passionate woman who was both empathetic and compassionate and possessed a strong sense of justice and a will-ingness to stand up for injustice. "

Please see the details of the works on the next blog post.


Through my works on Gwangju People’s Uprising, which were exhibited in Cheonan City and Gwangju in 2019, I was offered an opportunity to exhibit a work of art for this years ‘Unforgettable Faces’ at Lee Hanyeol Memorial Museum.

I feel humbled and grateful for this opportunity. My connection to Korea has been a journey, a path I never dreamt of, starting from an old cemetery in Gwangju two years ago leading to a pathway to this exhibition.