Wednesday April 1, 2020

Art exhibit to spread awareness about Sikh identity in the US

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Image: Wikimedia commons

NEW DELHI: Even after fifteen years of the 9/11 tragedy, Sikhs in the US feel they are more likely to face profiling, bigotry and backlash than the average American because of the two distinct symbols of their identity-the beard and the turban.

To spread better awareness about their religion, a new Sikh art exhibit will be held in New York later this year to showcase the pride taken by the community in their religious and cultural practices.

UK-based photographers Amit and Naroop will click portraits of Sikh Americans under ‘The Sikh Project’ mounted by The Sikh Coalition. These portraits will be unveiled around the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

The Coalition is the largest Sikh American advocacy and community development organisation in the US and works towards the realisation of civil and human rights for all people, particularly Sikhs.

After their critically acclaimed exhibit in the UK, the two photographers, who are proud of their Sikh heritage, said they are “very excited” about their upcoming exhibition.

“We are very excited! In the US, it will serve as an educational piece as well as an art project as the awareness of the Sikh identity is still misunderstood; so we are hoping it will have a wider impact,” the two photographers said in an email interview from New York.

The photography exhibit, which explores the beauty, style and symbolism of the Sikh articles of faith, will include both turbaned men and women and will feature a combination of iconic Sikh Americans and a few selected winners.

Speaking about how the idea of ‘The Sikh Project’ came to them, the two photographers said it was in 2013 that it struck them when they “noticed men of different backgrounds and ages growing beards for fashion, as part of their identity”.

“Being Sikh photographers, we wanted to show them that in our culture, the beard has been a part of the Sikh identity for hundreds of years,” they said.

They said their UK exhibition got “overwhelming response” and was “appreciated” and “respected” for its message and the way it was executed.

“The content and context resonated with people from different backgrounds as it is not just about Sikhs; it’s about pride for your identity.”

The two want their latest project to “stand up to the UK Singh Project and if anything do even better than it”.

“In the UK, we have witnessed how powerful art can be in positively educating the broader public about the Sikh community. We can’t wait to begin photographing the Sikh American experience and sharing those stories with the world as well.”

Amit and Naroop, in partnership with The Sikh Coalition, are currently casting for additional photography candidates and are asking turbaned Sikh Americans of all ages and genders to take part in this groundbreaking project. The deadline for the entry is May 1.

Related: The spirited journey of Canadian Sikhs

According to the Coalition’s Executive Director Sapreet Kaur, “The goal with bringing this project to the United States is the opportunity to combat bigotry by sharing a positive narrative of Sikhs in America through portraits and the incredible stories behind them.”

The Coalition was founded by volunteers on the night of September 11, 2001, in response to a torrent of violent attacks against Sikh Americans in the US.

Talking about the response of their subjects, the two photographers said it has been “fantastic”.

“The subjects involved have seen the success we have had, so they are excited to be involved. It’s the complete opposite of the UK Singh project as nobody wanted to be involved at first and it took a while for it to build momentum.”

They strongly feel that such an exhibition will help in showing the Sikh community in the US in a positive light and help fight the bigotry they face in their daily lives.

“Each one of the subjects has a story to tell, which will sit alongside the portrait. Some are positive, some are more dramatic, but through the stories, visitors of the exhibition will get to learn what it means to be an American Sikh, both in identity and also in spirit.”

 When asked whether the exhibition will help in highlighting the importance of the beard and turban, an important article of faith of the Sikh community. they said that they believed it would.The project, they said, is a fusion of their Sikh heritage and British upbringing.
 “It is traditional in content but the execution is modern and contemporary. Hopefully this has allowed it to spread to a wider audience. Has it been successful? It’s hard to judge. People have to be open to learn and understand other faiths and identities. All we can do is to try our best to spread the message. From the response we have had, it appears to have done the job, but there are always more people to reach.” (IANS)

Next Story

Dangerous Forces Behind New Delhi Riots

Here's everything you need to know about the ongoing New Delhi communal riots

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New Delhi riots
Since the past few months, there have been a lot of anti-CAA/NRC protests in New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

By SALIL GEWALI

Till just a week back the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of New Delhi (India) was heavily praised in the media as if God has sent down a bunch of benevolent and seasoned leaders to save the country. Most of the front-ranking columnists reveled in the party’s landslide victory. It was made clear through the media writings that AAP is the best option for India. But one is amazed how come its all elected members have become “seasoned and virtuous” leaders overnight when their past records are annoyingly off-putting. Disparity, discrimination, misgovernance and corruption were the glaring hallmarks of the party’s previous regime in the capital state. But all such outrageous venality has been gleefully overlooked, nor that has ever become a subject of discussion, analysis, and apprehension in the newsroom

In fact, the media does not ever focus its spotlight on this APP party that cheers up and instigates Muslim communities and other specific kinds of hooligans. However, the media endlessly grills the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath because he is from a party that loves the country and believes in its rich cultural ethos.

New Delhi riots
Till just a week back the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of New Delhi (India) was heavily praised in the media in spite of all the corruption and funding done by the party. Wikimedia Commons

Well, if Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister ever yells against gun-toting criminals, the media loses its cool. When such miscreants from a particular community are arrested, then the media groans, it screams and it beats its chest and try utmost to discredit the whole administration. It will forcefully claim that the Uttar Pradesh government is depriving the “minority” by appeasing the majority (Hindu) and therefore the Muslim are “not safe” in the country. What it means is that the culprits from the minority community must not be booked and put behind the bar. Were the dreaded terrorists Burhan Wani, Yakub Memon and Afjal Guru and such others not “glorified”, and sometimes exonerated, by the media? No surprise, media has no sense of regret in branding a “holy cow” as a “ferocious wolf” and vice versa these days in India.  This is, in fact, a tragedy, a trend that is pushing the country to a kind of anarchy and chaos of misinformation.

What is very astonishing is how long the media can keep the truths buried and thus play with the emotion and naivety of the masses and continue to mislead them!

New Delhi riots
The AAP and the protestors are leaving no stone unturned to defame the Modi government which passed the Citizenship Bill to give the shelter to the prosecuted Hindus, Sikh, Buddhist, Sindhi, Christian communities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in India. Wikimedia Commons

The police have already found a whole lot of evidence substantiating that certain APP leaders of New Delhi have allegedly been found to be involved in the most “despicable riots” and violence. They have incited the particular community, which they lovingly called marginalized MONORITY, after the Citizen Amendment Bill passed by the Modi Government. Most of the non-ruling parties, such as – Congress, CPM, TMC…, got together to incite the Muslim communities by their inflammatory speeches. A huge amount of public property across the country has been destroyed with impunity by the frenzied crowds; trains, motors vehicles, buildings have been set ablaze while many innocent people have been shot and killed.  There are increasing numbers of political leaders who thus “plan and orchestrate” such terror activities. Instigating the crowds has become a new game.

Nothing could be abominable than the fact that a political representative of the citizens allowed hundreds of miscreants into his building to throw petrol-bombs and acid pouches upon the citizens right from the terrace?  The building belongs to Tahir Hussain who has recently been elected APP leader. Though he was defended initially by the media and his party by suppressing his sinful acts but later police arrested him and charged him of killing a number of Hindus by using his building for the terror activities. Most of the rioters have been invited from other neighboring states.

How do we define this decadence? The dead body of an Intelligence Bureau constable Ankit Sharma was recovered from a ditch behind the house of Tahir Hussain in which many other Hindus were also found killed, and some women raped and shot dead. The autopsy report says that Ankit Sharma was stabbed brutally over 400 times. His father Ravinder Sharma claims that it is the handiwork of APP leader Tahir Hussain and his party cadre.

What a big irony that this is a party that is still receiving the heroic applause from the media fraternity claiming this will save the citizens in every respect.

One wanton Sharukh Khan who blatantly brandished a pistol and fired eight bullets at police personnel in the recent Delhi riot was shielded because he was from the Muslim community. Some media quickly gave him a Hindu name — “Anurag Mishra” calling him Hindu terrorist. Later he was arrested in Uttar Pradesh by the police putting all scandal-mongers to shame.

 About all these increasing threats to the innocent commoners and the integrity of the nation are hardly covered by the media which is purportedly busy in spreading the false news or hiding the misdeeds of the particular community and political leaders. It is leaving no stone unturned  to defame the Modi government which passed the Citizenship Bill to give the shelter to the prosecuted Hindus, Sikh, Buddhist, Sindhi, Christian communities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in India. It was in fact initiated out by the BJP government on the humanitarian ground which was even contemplated by the previous Congress government.

New Delhi riots
The police have already found a whole lot of evidence substantiating that certain APP leaders of New Delhi have allegedly been found to be involved in the most “despicable riots” and violence. Wikimedia Commons

Well, the violence and terror activities of the last two months have clearly revealed the most disgusting ground realities which will never augur well so far as the “sovereignty and peace” in the country is concerned.

Needless to say, speaking against the country is openly encouraged here. Many columns are being written by specific journalists from India or USA or Uk.. and published that in the reputed international newspapers and magazines. Tarnishing the image of the country and the ruling government is seemingly the prime motive.

 One Muslim leader — Waris Pathan recently thundered that 10 crores Muslims are capable to overpower 100 crores Hindu population in India and the news never raises the eye brow of any journalists or it never became a threat to the democracy in the country. The rabble-rouser has vented his anger at an event in Gulbarga in Karnataka in the presence of his boss Asaduddin Owaisi, the chief of AIMIM. There is a cabal of elites who pat on the back of those forces who openly defend the “terrorists” from across the border.  Arundhati Roy, Kanhaiya  Kumar, Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya, Shehla Rashid Shora, Mr. Jignesh Mewani, are few who have been made iconic figures as because they are capable to praise in the open forum the heroism of terrorists like Afjal Guru, Burhan Wani, Yakub Memon…

What more? When the questions of “sedition” are raised against those terrorists’ sympathizers then the media comes forward to denounce the whole country.

Also Read- Ratan Tata Calls for Focus in Education of Millions of Indian Youth

Hence, the so-called intellectuals and political parties have systematically fed false information and “incited” millions of Indians to voice against the Indian ethos and values, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. But mind, all these formidable forces are sweet-hearts of the mainstream media in India. Consequently, these “treacherous adventures” of those media always go to make the majority of Indian intellectuals cheerier, lustier, and more belligerent and hurtful.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.
Twitter: @SGewali