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.

12 April 2016

Remember Sonam Wangyal, January 8 2012

For Lama Sonam Wangyal, who self immolated in the early morning of January 8 2012 in Darlag country, Golog, Amdo, Tibet. He was believed to be a reincarnated lama and a respected religious figure in this local area.

Before his self immolation protest, he climbed a local him to burn incense and pray, and then distributed leaflets saying he would act "not for his personal glory but for Tibet and the happiness of Tibetans".  Then he drank and threw kerosene all over his body to set himself on fire at around 6 a.m.

Police took away his body and hundreds of local Tibetans staged a candlelight vigil urging the authorities to release his body.

 I remember hearing the tragic news in Bodhgaya, India, where more than one hundred thousand people gathered for H.H. Dalai Lama's kalachakra.  There were Tibetans, Ladakhi, Bhutanese, all Himalayan region Buddhists, and foreigners from many countries. Everyone was under a big tree of dharma.  It was a chaotic yet very precious moment. There were so many different faces to receive blessings from H.H. Dalai Lama in that small town, where Buddha was  believed to have enlightened under the Bodhi tree.  The news of his deadly protest was a painful contrast, somebody who could be under this beautiful tree gave up his life in very painful way.  The news echoed my heart through like an arrow.

his recorded last messages can be found here.