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 September 2016

The Other Side

I drew many blue legs and many eyes this summer.  And I burnt many sticks of incense to poke paper. Why blue?  thinking of those who walked and walked over the high peaks covered with snow or swimming in the ocean, crossing the boarder for a free land.
Snow, glacier, the ocean - elements of water, cold water.
And I drew a figure walking, searching, hoping to reunite. Every bit of drawing and burning felt as if I could reach somewhere deep and connect with these people whom I never met and whose lights of life may have lost.

This evening, a cool night of the autumn after a long summer,  I was looking for words for this image, I had some kind of poem in my mind but it was vague.  Then Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan poet/writer's poem book 'Tibet's True Heart" came into my mind and I picked it up to start flipping the pages.

I encountered a poem titled "The Other Side" and started reading it.
My heart trembled when I came to lines:
"When you poke through/That sheet of thin, thin paper/And your eyes (soon to close)/ Peer beyond it/
Taking in the scenery/On the other side/

 It is her poem which she composed 26 years ago yet it felt as if this drawing was calling for the very poem of hers.  How hearts and feelings travel beyond time and space.

Attached below are the whole version of the poem in English and Chinese, that has been just sent by her with her permission.  ( note:  "Tibet's True Heart" by Woeser is published by Ragged Banner Press, Translated byA.E.Clark. 2008)


The Other Side                        Tsering Woeser

When you're near death
There's always an instant
When you poke through
That sheet of then, thin paper
And your eyes ( soon to close)
Peer beyond it,
Taking in the scenery
On the other side.
Then your gaze slowly comes back
In time for your last breath here.
The bystanders
Are all waiting calmly,
Willing to put up with a great deal,
Not like when I was fully alive and kicking
And they tried so hard to hold me back.
Maybe they'd still like to hold me back:
I don't know,
I don't want to know.
Basically, it's just one finger:
If a feeble effort
Can poke through that piece of paper
And find death,
The only thing I fear is that (surprise!) I might not manage to die.
I might leap from the bed
Jabbing them with gusto....
Now that would be interesting.

(March 1990 Kangding)



11 September 2016

Sketch for Eyes Water Fire II

Thousands of Eyes
Shedding tears
Vessels floating on rough water
Legs crossing glaciers
Half frozen
In the snow mountains
Keep flames burning to show
That we are here to live
To reach the right
Tears of light

Announcement - Exhibition 'Eyes Water Fire' @ Art Beatus, Vancouver, BC, Canada