Collecting the Arts of the Punjab: Art and Identity for the Sikh Diaspora in Singapore and Beyond

Sikhs in Singapore

By Paul Michael Taylor and Sonia Dhami

We are honoured to participate in the present exhibition held at Singapore’s Indian Heritage Centre by contributing this essay on a topic that is important to Sikhs in Singapore and— around the world—the role of collecting Sikh artworks within the maintenance of Sikh identity in diasporic communities. In fact, this exhibition is an example of the regular international exchange of material heritage of the Sikhs, since five important artworks from the Kapany Collection of Sikh Art were loaned to this exhibition. This loan, and the attention this exhibition is receiving in Singapore as well as internationally, are components of the growing international recognition of Sikh art, and the role it plays in diasporic Sikh communities.

We have co-edited a volume of essays exploring aspects of the extensive Sikh art collection assembled by the late Dr Narinder S. Kapany and his late wife Satinder Kapany1. We noted there the important role they felt art played in helping people in their adopted country, the United States, understand their Sikh cultural heritage2. Their collection has frequently been loaned not only in the US but in other countries, in the same spirit and with the same purpose, so its inclusion in this exhibition is very fitting. Dr Kapany envisioned both his art collections and his philanthropy (through the Sikh Foundation he started in 1967) as a means by which he, as an immigrant in America, could contribute to a better understanding and appreciation by his fellow Americans as well as beneficiaries in many other countries of his own cultural background.

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