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.

10 July 2015

For Kusho Sonam Topgyal July 9 2015

For Sonam Topgyal, 26 years old monk, who set himself on fire in Kyegudo, Kham, Tibet on July 9th 2015.

A few photos of him engulfed in flames on the paved square, some people standing near by, came out to the exile place first.  His name, age, and hometown came out later. No further details did not reach due to the immediate shut down of means of communications to outside.

In the photos, he has his hands in prayer, almost clasping.

By standers took him to the hospital, however, his condition is unknown.

This happened 3 days after H.H. Dalai Lama's 80th birthdays.  It felt like the whole world was celebrating his birthday and wishing for long life.  Despite of pressure from the local Chinese authorities, many pictures came out from Tibet that Tibetan people inside Tibet are celebrating it by putting up Kundun's photos and making beautiful alters with offerings to them.

Then this sad news came out.  It is heartbreaking to imagine what was on his mind during the celebration and before his protest.

Note:  Further details at present of July 10. Sonam Topgyal is a native of Kham Nangchen, his father's name spells Nangchen Tashi and Bode is of Mother. He has five siblings.
He had been studying for 7 years at Dege Dzongsar Monastery.