The politics of modern age has forced us all to introspect our own identities. Understanding how religion plays a part in creating our individual image is integral. My personal understanding of Sikhism was formed through politics and not scriptures. When I saw the ‘Sikhi’ we spoke of in our community on full display during the farmers protest, I truly understood the many concepts taught to me at an early age. It was also the time when young artists from the community took to their craft to mobilise and inform the larger public.
On introspecting the work of young Sikh creatives today, we can see how the identity comes into play as a narrative of its own. Through photography, podcasts, murals and art, young artists are promoting dialogue on the many issues faced by the community while celebrating the identity that rests on a rich history. Here are five creatives exploring the multilayered Sikh identity through different mediums.
A young photographer, Jaskaran Singh, captures the diversity of Punjab with both a sense of familiarity and curiosity. May it be the panoramic shots of striking landscapes or intimate shots of the locals, his lens follows the visual language of his subjects rather than overpowering them. Jaskaran documented the historic farmers’ protest with an empathetic display of ground reality, showcasing the brutality withered by resilient farmers throughout the 16 months. Beyond Punjab, the artist also attempts to explore Kashmir with an authentic representation of the people separate from the glamorised image in media.
The ability to translate concerning social issues into a visually appealing narrative is what truly describes Ravina as an artist. Her aesthetic sensibilities are deeply entrenched in the culture and beauty of Punjab, with special attention to detailed motifs replicating the textiles such as Phulkari. The artist sheds light on the multitude of issues faced by Sikhs as a minority while also celebrating the rich history of the community over the last 500 years. Ravina believes that art can be a platform for creating brown representation across the world as well as to promote dialogue around issues of social justice in South Asian households.
Providing a platform for Sikh women to explore their identities and connections while reclaiming spaces, Kaur Collective is a podcast geared at broadening the conversation around religion and more. A storytelling movement empowering Sikh women to discover spirituality while tapping into the history of Kaurs who have always carved out their own paths. The podcast shares insights into embracing the layered cultural identity as Sikh women given the collective name ‘Kaur’ that liberated us from many oppressive structures such as caste and class.
When I get to discover platforms where a Sikh woman delves into topics of fashion and beauty it is particularly exciting and liberating. It is because while the media has always stripped us of femininity with exaggerated and boisterous displays of our identity, pages like Seerat reclaim that femininity on her own terms. The content speaks of her Punjabi-American identity and secrets of beauty passed down to her by other women in her family. Hair is also an integral part of her image like so many Sikh women and her content highlights its importance while providing information and tips around hair care. Seerat doesn’t restrict her online presence to fashion and beauty, rather openly divulges into politics and social issues surrounding South Asians as well.
A gifted visual artist Sunroop Kaur is a young creative that plays around with different mediums of art. Her talent shines on murals created by hand around the many walls of London and California. She also decodes her personal lineage and inter-generational legacy through portratures. Sunroop’s art is loaded with the rich Sikh heritage with hints of western influenced aesthetics. Describing her self portraits as a medium of understanding her own identity, she shares ‘I work on self portraits that complicate issues regarding colonial ideologies by interjecting myself and multiple iterations of myself into a history that has consistently rejected my existence’.
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