Sikh Heritage Month acknowledges the contributions and aspirations of Sikh Canadians while creating a greater understanding for the rich, unique and distinctive heritage of Sikhi. It aims to highlight contemporary talent in the Sikh community, creating a united artistic front for Sikhs.
In the month of April, the Sikh community will gather to celebrate Vaisakhi – formation of the Khalsa panth. During this time, Sikhs will be able to fully embrace their culture and heritage. By collaborating to provide space and opportunity to bring together all members of the Sikh diaspora, the Sikh Students’ Associations (SSA) of the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University aim to bridge the gap between modernity and heritage by hosting events throughout the month of April in honour of Sikh Heritage Month (SHM).
Sikh Heritage Month acknowledges the contributions and aspirations of Sikh Canadians while creating a greater understanding for the rich, unique, and distinctive heritage of Sikhi. SHM aims to highlight contemporary talent in the Sikh community, creating a united artistic front for Sikhs. The whole community comes together to express their culture through various mediums, including but not limited to, art exhibitions, workshops, and spoken word performances.
SSA’s art exhibition – The Revival, features the work of local artists, poets, musicians and authors, from March 30-31. The Revival focuses on how local Sikh-Canadian artists explore and reflect on their identities and seeks to bridge the gap between diasporic audiences and the classical Sikh arts. The event aspires to allow artists to showcase their work, while they explore different media and celebrate the growing Sikh arts community. Art by local artists will be on display and up for auction, with hundreds expected to take in the event over the course of two evenings.
Historian and playwright Paneet Singh and Milan Singh will host “Histories, Mysteries and Mischief: A Walking Tour of Kitsilano” describing an era when sawmills and Sikh homes lined False Creek, and Sikh-Canadians faced key struggles such as retaining the right to vote, immigration reform, and labour unrest. Human rights advocacy group, the World Sikh Organization (WSO), hosts “KaursVote” to encourage the political participation of Sikh women at the local and national level. The Sikh Research Institute will host a #MeToo discussion. A Finale Gala on April 26 at Aria Banquet Hall will close off the month with a kirtan (poetry sung to music) on Sunday April 28.
SHM allows the community to collaborate to preserve Sikh Heritage. Through partnered events, organizations and institutions work alongside SHM to provide space and resources to explore Sikhi. This year, SHM has partnered with: Sikh Research Institution, WSO, Guru Nanak Academy, Akaal Khalsa, Muskaan Foundation Canada, The Nameless Collective Podcast, and Gobind Sarvar. The partnered events allow the community to explore not only the history and heritage but also the accomplishments of those who have reached professional careers while keeping intact their Sikh values and principles.
Public awareness videos will also roll out over digital platforms that are designed to educate and raise awareness of the diversity that exists within the Sikh community, especially among those who chose to be visible Sikhs and wear the articles of the Sikh faith.
The Sikh-Canadian community has a long and proud history since the first Sikh immigrants set foot on Canadian soil. From facing the hardships of being first-generation immigrants to making significant contributions to the growth and prosperity of the country, Canadian-Sikhs have created a dignified identity in Canada. Despite these sacrifices and contributions, Sikh-Canadian history is not often mentioned. It is therefore at a risk of being lost or forgotten. SHM provides the community as a whole with an opportunity to recognize all those who have worked tirelessly to contribute to Canada. “Being a Canadian and a Sikh, I feel immense happiness with April being the Sikh Heritage Month. Sikh values of hard work, truth, love, respect, fairness, caring and sharing are similar to Canadian values. Events Like these promote better understanding between humans of different faiths and cultures,” says Dr. Pargat Singh Bhurji.
Along with the community, SHM will celebrate and educate future generations about Sikh culture and contributions by Sikh-Canadians. By highlighting the important and crucial roles that Sikhs have played and continue to play in the country’s development, SHM will foster pride within the Sikh community. It is our hope that Bill C-376 officially recognizes SHM throughout Canada to ensure that Sikh culture continues to thrive in Canadian culture.
We hope to see the wider community join us to celebrate the accomplishments and build a relation through the sharing of recognition and appreciation of Sikh heritage.
Photos: Pat Singh Cheung