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Here’s how the Sikh twins created a Post-Modern genre of Art

The sisters work on the same painting simultaneously, two at a time, which is as curious an approach as it is must be difficult to execute

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  • It was on the portrait of the last Sikh king, Maharaja Duleep Singh that gave the two sisters a sizeable reputation
  • At first sight, they fell in love with the Indian art of miniature painting
  • Amrit and Rabindra, though born and brought up in the west, still hold their motherland to be the source and the image of their works

At a time when the idea of European individualism influenced the art and the philosophy of people, the Singh Twins, as they like to call themselves, worked with their mutual oneness, creating art that was unique and inspiring in nature. With the famous portrait of Maharaja Duleep Singh and the controversial painting depicting the Golden Temple after Operation Blue Star, Amrit and Rabindra Kaur have certainly made a mark in the history of art.

The partition of India led Amrit and Rabindra Kaur’s family to move to London. Talking about their life in Liverpool, where they have continued to live since the age of four, they told Firstpost, “We grew up in a quiet little village and were sent to a Catholic Convent school for its high standards of education, discipline and spiritual grounding. We were the only Indians and non-Christians there, but it didn’t stop us getting involved in the religious life of the school.”

The Christian imagery which is rich in iconography, symbolism, decoration and narrative, ignited their passion for art. They said that it played a huge part in influencing their aesthetic taste and led to their love of Art Nouveau, Renaissance, Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolists art. “As children we spent our spare time drawing fantasy and fairytale images inspired by these art movements,” they added.

Being similar in the physical sense of it is one thing but having the same ideology and passion comes with the kind of baggage most people, let alone artists, are not familiar with carrying. These sisters work on the same painting simultaneously, two at a time, which is as curious an approach as it is must be difficult to execute, says the Firstpost article.

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“At school we were first separated in class and then placed in different classrooms, against our will. Later, when we were studying the 20th century Western Art History as part of a BA (Hons) degree in Combined Studies, we were heavily criticised by our art tutors for developing similar styles of work (something that was a natural outcome of our joint love for the Indian miniature tradition rather than any conscious decision on our part to be the same). They felt we were not being individual enough. Which went against the ideal they held and taught about ‘individuality’ being ‘the be all and end all’ of contemporary art,” the twins say.

At the very first sight, they fell in love with the Indian art of miniature painting. “The technical skill, intricate detail and imaginative compositions; their beautiful jewel-like quality with the illuminated gold work, their narrative power; their satire (often used within the social and political themes) and their rich symbolic language, fascinated us,” the Singh Twins said.

But they are disappointed at the receding influence of our traditional art in the modern Indian art. They feel that inspiration need not be looked elsewhere when there are so many indigenous art forms and techniques that are glorious and unique in its own way.  “It seemed that India in general no longer valued this art form which was reduced to cheap imitations for the tourist industry,” they iterated.

A painting titled Nineteen Eighty-Four, which shows the Golden Temple after Operation Blue Star, garnered them praise but a fair share of negative reviews, as it was termed ‘violent’ by some. “The feedback to 1984 moved us but it also humbled us because we don’t feel that we had been particularly brave in depicting this event. It is easy to speak out against injustice when you are not in fear of serious repercussions. We sometimes wonder if we lived in Punjab whether we might perhaps have thought twice about creating it?” the twins ask.

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Casualty of War A Portrait of Maharaja Duleep Singh Copyright @ www.singhtwins.co.uk
Casualty of War A Portrait of Maharaja Duleep Singh Copyright @ www.singhtwins.co.uk

But it was the commission from the National Museum of Scotland on the portrait of the last Sikh king, Maharaja Duleep Singh that gave the two sisters a sizeable reputation. In 2009, the sisters were to draw a portrait of the king with attention focused on the belongings of the Maharaja that were part of the museum’s collection. “We had been fascinated by the tragic story of Maharaja Duleep Singh for many years. It was a dream commission!” say the twins to Firstpost. The portrait was called the ‘Reclamation of the Last Maharaja’ and was regarded positively by most.

Amrit and Rabindra, though born and brought up in the west, still hold their motherland to be the source and the reflection of their works. “Despite living here (in the UK), our lives and our work is a reflection of our cultural values that continue to be inspired by our very Indian traditions,” they say.

– prepared by Ajay Krishna, an intern at NewsGram.

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  • Aparna Gupta

    Art is always appreciated in our country. These sikh girls had a very creative mind.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Art should be encouraged in India, there are many artists who need recognition and deserve much more than exhibitions

  • AJ Krish

    It is all about one’s creativity and how much passion one has for art. Going against what they were taught , the Sikh Twins followed their passion and created a whole new genre.

  • Aparna Gupta

    Art is always appreciated in our country. These sikh girls had a very creative mind.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Art should be encouraged in India, there are many artists who need recognition and deserve much more than exhibitions

  • AJ Krish

    It is all about one’s creativity and how much passion one has for art. Going against what they were taught , the Sikh Twins followed their passion and created a whole new genre.

Next Story

India China’s Fight Over the Doklam Plateau Explained

Doklam or Donglang, is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India

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picture from- indiaopines.com

By Ruchika Verma

  • India and China have an old history of disputes
  • This time, the dispute is regarding the Dokplam Plateau
  • The area is of strategic importance for both the nations

Disputes between India and China are not at all uncommon. The rivalry between the two nations is famous. There have been several disputes between the two on the India-China border in past, and there seems to be no stopping for these disputes in the present or future, for that matter.

India and China have a n old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com
India and China have an old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com

In June 2017, the world witnessed yet another dispute arising between India and China. This time the dispute was about China building a road extending to Doklam Plateau, which both nations have been fighting over for years now.

Also Read: China is likely to get involved if India disrupts $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

History of the dispute 

Doklam or Donglang (in Chinese), is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India. India doesn’t directly claim the area but supports Bhutan’s claims on it.

India fits into the picture, as this plateau is an important area for India. Not only is Bhutan one of the biggest allies of India; China gaining access over the Doklam Plateau will also endanger India’s borders, making them vulnerable to attacks.

Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan's borders.
Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan’s borders.

Apart from the hostile history of the two nations, the Doklam Plateau is also important for India to maintain its control over a land corridor that connects to its remote northeastern States. China building a road through Doklam surely threatens that control.

A complete timeline of what happened in the recent Doklam Standoff 

On 16 June 2017, Chinese troops with construction vehicles and excavators began extending an existing road southward on the Doklam plateau, near India’s border. It was Bhutan which raised the alarm for India.

On 18 June 2017, India responded by sending around 270 Indian troops, with weapons and two bulldozers to evict the Chinese troops from Doklam.

On 29 June 2017, Bhutan protested against the construction of a road in the disputed territory.  According to the Bhutanese government, China attempted to extend a road in an area which is shared both Bhutan and India, along with China.

Between 30 June 2017 and 5 July 2017, China released multiple statements justifying their claim over the Doklam plateau. They cited reasons as to why the Doklam standoff wasn’t really needed. And how China has not intruded into India’s territory to incite the standoff.

On 19th July 2017, China asked India again to withdraw its troops from the Doklam. On 24th July 2017,  Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in his statement, asked India to withdraw and behave themselves to maintain peace.

India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC
India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC

Also Read: Why India Must Counter China’s High-Altitude Land Grab?

What followed till 16th August 2017 was China constantly alleging India of trying to create trouble. They accused India of trying to disturb the peace and not withdrawing the troops, even after repeated reminders. They also accused India of bullying.

India, however, kept quiet during the whole fiasco, only releasing a statement regarding their stand and position at the Doklam standoff.

On 28 August 2017, India and China finally announced that they had agreed to pull their troops back from the Doklam standoff. The withdrawal was completed on that very day.

On 7 September 2017, many media reports claimed that both nation’s troops have not left the site completely. They were still patrolling the area, simply having moved 150 meters away from their previous position.

On 9 October 2017, China announced that it is ready to maintain peace with India at the frontiers. India reacted in affirmative, the peace was established when Indian Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s visited Nathu La.

The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay
The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay

The Doklam issue, for now, is resolved. However, given the history of disputes between India and China, it won’t be a surprise if the issue resurfaces again in near future.