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.

17 May 2016

Remember Rinzin Dorje and Sonam Labyang February 8 2012

For Rinzin Dorje, a 19 yrs old former Kirti monk and Sonam Labyang, a 42 yrs old monk from Lab monastery, who carried out self immolation protests on February 8 2012.

Two protests happened in two different locations in Amdo on the same day: Rinzin Dorje at a primary school early in the evening in Ngaba county town in Ngaba and Sonam Labyang in Triwang town, Tridu County, Yulshul.

Rinzin Dorje set himself on fire at a primary school early in the evening and he was taken away by police to the local hospitals but believed to have passed away. He was known as a humble and kind person, and a hard worker, who enjoyed looking after the birds that lived around the monastery.  Sonam Labyang survived but both of his legs had to be amputated.  His current living situation and physical condition is unknown.

Recent the self-immolation of Rinzin on that day and former protests by others had triggered a number of protests in Ngaba and neighbouring Kardze, in which at least three Tibetans were shot dead.

February 8 was the global solidarity day for Tibet and candle light vigils took place worldwide by exile Tibetans and human rights supporters.  Tibetans in Tibet were aware about this, therefore the security in politically sensitive areas inside Tibet like Ngaba was very tight.