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.

30 March 2015

For Norchuk 2

Dear Norchuk

You died on March 6 2015
by setting yourself on fire

later the news came
that you left three children behind. Three children.

the reality of life without free air, clear water, and pure soil for generations
where many lost their lives in expressing their dignity and that they never give up

Probably you had lived fully: you offered water every morning, prayed, worked hard and raised children.
Till you decided to give your life away for what you believed in.
I wish I could feel you more.

After days since your passing, I see you standing with your bare feet on soft green grass like a mountain.  So as you can watch your children grow

Peace, peace, peace.  Peace, please come to your land

15 March 2015

Thinking of Lobsang Phuntsok and Ngaba on March 16th

Four years ago today, Lobsang Phuntsok, a monk from Kirti Monastery, Ngaba, Amdo, set himself on fire.  He was only 20 years old. He walked to a busy main street from his monastery alone and walking in flame raising slogans loudly.  "May H.H.Dalai Lama return to Tibet" " Tibet needs freedom".

He fell into the ground twice then a bunch of army and police forces came to surround him. The witness says he was beaten severely on site.

Local people grabbed his body to admit a hospital but the hospital refused to treat him.
In great pain, he passed away around 3 am on the next day.

More than 3, 000 monks offered prayers all day and over night in front of his body wrapped with kathaks and three thousands and some hundreds people came to pay condolence to him at the monastery. Everybody was in tears.

March 16 in Ngaba is known to have had a major crush between local people and Chinese army force when a peaceful protest happened cross Tibet in 2008.  More than 30 people were brutally killed by random gun shots.  More than 1,000 were arrested and many went missing.

One witness said:
" Many people were killed in Ngaba on March 16, 2008.  After 3 years,  many people offer butter lamps at the monastery and home to pray for the victims.  Phuntsok's way was self immolation."

8 March 2015

For Norchuk

For Norchuk, who self immolated in Trotusk, Ngaba, Amdo, Tibet on March 6 2015.
She is 40 years old and she has recently taken a vow not to eat any meat.  Those are only things that are known along with her portrait picture.
I gazed at her face, the face of the woman who is around my age.  What brought her to decide to do this extreme protest in her village.  What kind of life had she have?   
it is again in Ngaba, the green county, where one life has gone in flame.

After sitting in front of the unfinished drawing for a while,  the last thing my mind did was to press finger prints with white ink around her face.  Pressing like offering butter lamps and prayers.  White to purify her pain.

NOTE: After this post, the further information about her came into the exile side.  Actually she is 47 years old and has three children.

7 March 2015

Thinking of Tapey and March 10th

Tapey, a monk from Kirti monastery in Ngaba, Amdo, is the first person who self immolated in Tibet.

On February 27th, 2009, he doused himself with oil, walked alone from the monastery to the crossroads in the market area of the town, and set himself on fire.

It is said that he was carrying a home made Tibetan flag that had at its centre a photograph of the Dalai Lama.

While shouting slogans, People's Armed Police force arrived and opened fire on him.
He fell the ground.

So many monks, nuns, young, old, fathers, and mothers, have followed him in Ngaba up till now.  people say  Ngaba is a land of the beautiful green pasture, yet, green grass has absorbed countless tears and blood of people.

I tried to feel Tapey's mind when he was making his country's banned flag in his room.  What a important meaning it must have had to him.  Yearning for freedom? Determination to show his dignity to the enemy?

March 10th is the anniversary of the Tibetan uprising in Lhasa in 1959.  Thousands of people had ringed the walls of the Norbulingka palace -summer residence of the Dalai Lamas to protect H.H. Dalai Lama the 14th and to show solidarity against Chinese Communist Party's rule. This lead to the major uprising in Lhasa on March 20th and in a few days, it is said ten thousands to fifteen thousands of Tibetan people were killed.  On this day, around the world, except in Tibet, many protest marches take place and streets are covered with Tibetan flags.