On a Mission To Promote and Preserve Sikh Culture
It has been over 50 years since The Sikh Foundation was established and the work they have done in the field of education and culture is exceptional. As the founder, late Narinder Singh Kapany, once said, “On the threshold of the twenty-first century, it is the destiny of the Sikh people to be a thriving and contributing international community. The teachings and exemplary lives of the ten Sikh Gurus from Nanak to Gobind Singh are our beacons. The wisdom, philosophy, and arts of the Sikh faith belong to the world and it is time now to bring them into the light.”
Taking the conversation forward is Sonia Dhami, the executive director at The Sikh Foundation. While we know that the Foundation takes special interest in the field of art and education, Sonia expands on what the ultimate goal of the foundation is, “The Sikh Foundation ultimately looks to promote, preserve and support the Sikh culture, art, artists, and support universities with a special focus on the study of Sikhism,” shares Sonia, adding, “We closely work with museums, universities, artists, and other organizations.”
Go through their online store and one cannot but fall in love with the unique paintings, literature, kid’s books, religious texts, and culture-related books, etc. From greeting cards, painting of the Third Empire of Punjab, to The Boy With Long Hair - a book about culture identification- there is a lot to choose from. “Several times we have Sikh artists contact us about displaying their work. We happily agree and will always promote it, too,” shares Sonia.
The Sikh Foundation has been very vocal about supporting the farmer’s protest that made headlines all over the world. Talking about the issue, Sonia declares, “I believe the farmer’s protest has touched the lives of Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike. It has become more of a human rights situation and escalated to new levels.
Coming from a village in Punjab, I know how difficult it must be for everyone who has left farming and is on the streets protesting for their rights. It is hard for these farmers to fight against corporations and what is ultimately going to happen is they will be left landless. Unless the Government steps in and takes action it is going to be very difficult for the common man.”
With this grim mood, Sonia says that the coming Vaisakhi brings with it a ray of hope. “I think with Covid and the farmer’s protest, this Vaisakhi is going to be very different. I can only hope that this Vaisakhi changes things for our farmers. Having said that, I believe a lot of art has come out of these protests. From paintings, poems, and street theatre - there has been a lot of powerful engagement with the Government,” she shares.
As far as art exhibitions are concerned, most of the shows are on hold courtesy of Covid-19. However, The Sikh Foundation is proud to announce Sikhs in Singapore – A Story Untold, an art show that supports and showcases the long and rich history of Singapore’s Sikh community. The exhibition is divided into three parts - “Roots, which explores the origins of Singapore’s Sikh community; Settlement, which presents the narratives of Sikh migrants in Singapore, revealing the story of the nascent original community and some of its prominent members; and Contemporary Perspectives, which offers glimpses into the experiences of contemporary Sikhs, highlighting the ever-evolving Singaporean Sikh identity and the community’s contributions to the nation, said an official statement regarding the show.
Sonia also tells us exciting news about a permanent Sikh Art Gallery as part of the Montreal Museum of Art. “We have about 150 pieces that will be on display. While the show was to go live last year, things have been on hold and there is no updates on a definite date. We hope to finalize things and announce a date soon,” she concludes.