Category Archives: India

Don’t Forget About Us

In May of 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a formal apology in the House of Commons for the 1914 actions of the Canadian government when they refused entry into Canada to nearly 400 British citizens, mostly Sikh men, who had traveled from India to Vancouver on board a Japanese ship called The Komagata Maru. After spending nearly two months in the Vancouver harbor the ship was forced to return to India at naval gunpoint.  British soldiers boarded The Komagata Maru upon its arrival in Calcutta and a riot ensued during which twenty passengers died and many were arrested. The Canadian immigration rules at the time discriminated against people from South East Asia, rather favoring immigrants from England, Europe, and the United States.  In 1914 British Columbia was home to some 2000 people from India mostly Sikhs from the Punjab who had come to work there. Other citizens who knew very little about India, its historical achievements, religious diversity, or rich culture, worried they would eventually become outnumbered by Indian immigrants. The Canadian government had put all kinds of rules and regulations in place to make it very difficult for people from India to enter Canada but the passengers on board The Komagata Maru claimed the rules didn’t apply to them because they were British citizens. Their pleas were rejected. 

Don’t Forget About Us by Jagdeep Raina 2014

I learned about The Komagata Maru because of a current installation at the Winnipeg Art Gallery that is part of our Vision Exchange exhibit.  It contains work by Jagdeep Raina an artist from Guelph Ontario who used archival documents from Kashmiri and Punjabian Sikh diaspora communities as inspiration.  His mixed media exhibition includes a drawing based on a 1914  photograph of men who had traveled on board The Komagata Maru. He has entitled it Don’t Forget About Us. 

Wikipedia photo of the passengers on board the Komagata Maru

In his apology in the House of Commons in 2016 Prime Minister Trudeau said that The Komagata Maru passengers were no different than millions of other immigrants to Canada.  They were simply seeking refuge and a better life for their families. They had much to contribute to Canada and we failed them utterly.

Nimrat Randhawa with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the formal apology for the Komagata Maru incident, May 18, 2016.

Nimrat Randhawa, the great, great granddaughter of Gurdit Singh the man who organized the attempt by the Komagata Maru passengers to gain entry into Canada. The photo was taken at the time of Canada’s formal apology to the Komagata Maru passengers. 

During his apology the Prime Minister urged people not to forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community in Canada. Jagdeep Raina’s artwork is a good reminder of the Prime Minister’s request.   You can read more about the Komagata Maru incident on the website of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

Other posts………

A Carpet Conversation About the Universe

Sports Equipment and Salt

Hyphenated Lives

Wrestling Farmers

 

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Filed under Art, India, winnipeg art gallery

Wrestling Farmers

At the Three Gorges Dam. I am furthest to the left.

When I visited the Three Gorges Dam site in China I discovered this sculpture showing farmers wrestling. It was meant to depict how for thousands of years farmers have had to fight the flooding waters of the Yangtze. I immediately thought of that art piece in China when I saw….. this artwork at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It is called Farmer is A Wrestler. It was created by Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra. It is part of the current Vision Exchange exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The artists wanted to show the struggle it is to farm in India today. In an interview, they talk about the crippling debt of many farmers in the Punjab region in northern India and how their financial crisis has sometimes led to the farmers’ committing suicide. 

The sculpture I saw in China was related to the Yangtze River.  In their installation, Thukral and Tagra have included light fixtures that echo the shape of the River Beas which flows through the state of Punjab. 

I’ve written before about how new texts become meaningful when we can connect them to previous texts we have experienced. The installation Farmer is a Wrestler took on new meaning for me when I thought about the similar artwork I had seen in another Asian country. 

Other posts……..

Now We’ve Been to Sister Cities

Three Gorges Yangtze River Project

Hyphenated Lives

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Filed under Art, China, India, Nature

A Carpet Conversation About the Universe

raqs media collective The Necessity of InfinityDid you know you are looking at a conversation?  This beautiful wool carpet is woven through with metalized thread.  It is called The Necessity of Infinity and was created by the Raqs Media Collective consisting of artists Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta.  Their carpet serves as a stage for a conversation between two great Persian scholars who lived in the 10th century.avicenna-2 The silver threads in the carpet represent the words of Ibn Sina the author of more than 450 books most of them about medicine and healing. He is often called the Father of Modern Medicine.  Iba Sina was also very interested in, and knowledgeable about, mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy. 

Ibn-Ahmed-Al-Biruni-400x400
The golden threads in the carpet represent the words of Al Beruni. He studied mathematics, astronomy, geography, religion, and history. Among other things, he researched how the earth spins on its axis and figured out the lines of longitude and latitude for more than a thousand cities. He also wrote a pharmacy book in which he described every single known medicine of his time. 

The two men carried on a vibrant correspondence with one another over a period of some two years discussing their different understandings of what Aristotle had to say about the universe. They argued about whether all the planets had gravity and rotated. Al Beruni who lived in present-day Turkmenistan believed that human beings were all alone in the universe but Ibn Sina who lived some 250 miles away in present-day Uzbekistan argued that there could be many worlds other than our own. There is no evidence the two men ever met in person but The Raqs Media Collective imagined they did.  

neccesity of infinity by raqs collectiveWhen The Necessity of Infinity was on display at the Sharjah Museum in the United Arab Emirates two actors dressed as Beruni and Sina actually carried on a conversation about the universe on the carpet.

The Necessity of Infinity is part of the Vision Exchange exhibit currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Other posts………

Hyphenated Lives

Sports Equipment and Salt

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Sports Equipment and Salt

This half circle of salt that features marble sports equipment is part of an installation by artist Sarindar Dhaliwal in the Vision Exchange exhibit currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The cricket bat, field hockey stick, and badminton racket represent sports that were brought to India in their modern form by British colonizers although a game very similar to field hockey was played in the 17th century in the Punjab state of India called khido khundi.  Khido referred to the woolen ball and khundi to the stick.  

A team from India wins the Under 19 World Cricket Championships in 2018

India has become a formidable force in the world of cricket.  India’s elite took up the sport in order to build relationships with the British and its popularity spread to the general population.

India’s national women’s cricket team

This led the way for the creation of some superstar cricketers and India’s international success in the sport.

Why is the sports equipment lying on a bed of salt? In 1882 India was under British rule and the British passed a Salt Act which banned Indians from collecting or selling salt.  Salt had to be bought from the British and they added a heavy tax to each purchase.

Gandhi was joined by thousands on his Salt March.

In 1930 to protest the salt tax Indian leader Gandhi led a salt march.  Thousands of people walked down to the sea to collect salt from the salt flats there.

Gandhi bends down to pick up a lump of salt

Gandhi was arrested after he bent down to pick up a small lump of salt.  Gandhi’s actions led to peaceful protest demonstrations all over India. The British police force responded and in the end, some 60,000 protesters were arrested. Although India would not gain independence from the British until 1947 the salt march and the civil disobedience it inspired gave Gandhi a seat at the table in the discussions about India’s future.

Salt and sports equipment. Two symbols of India’s past as a colony of the British but also symbols of a future when India would control its own natural resources and make its own name in the sports world. 

Other posts……..

A Different Kind of Snow Angel

Hyphenated Lives

India Assaults the Senses

The Heros Walk

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Filed under Art, India, winnipeg art gallery

Two Films About Menstruation You Need to See

One of good things about watching  the Oscars this year was learning about the film  Period. End of Sentence. It  won the award for best documentary short subject.  I watched it on Netflix the very next day. The film was the brainchild of a group of highschool students in Los Angeles and their teacher Melissa Berton who wanted to tell the story of young girls in India who don’t have access to affordable sanitary pads. Because of this the girls stay home from school when they have their period or suffer serious health problems because they use dirty rags or sometimes even ash instead of sanitary napkins.

Set in rural India the film brings to light the deep stigma still attached to menstruation in much of the country.  Directed by award-winning filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi and produced by Guneet Monga the film also highlights the work of Arunachalam Muruganantham an Indian inventor who created a simple machine to make affordable biodegradable sanitary napkins. In the film the inventor teaches a group of women in the village of Hapur to make the napkins with his machine and they sell them and use the money to finance their own education and improve their lives. Arunachalam Muruganantham is inspired by these girls trying to build a future for themselves.  He says “the strongest creature on earth is not the elephant, not the tiger, but the girl.” 

After watching Period. End of Sentence I also watched Padman on Netflix. It is an inspiring movie which tells the story of inventor Arunachalam Muruganantham and shows how his sanitary pad machine is enabling women all over India to have access to affordable personal hygiene products and in the process helping them to become independent, educated and empowered. Padman is certainly worth watching as well. 

At the Oscars Melissa Berton accepted her award saying “A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.” Her film as well as Padman profile an important initiative. You can support it at The Pad Project which is directly related to the two films.  Here is a list of ten other organizations that have similar initiatives in other countries. 

Other posts………

Meeting the Street Children of Dehli

Indian  Dinner

Love in a Lunch Box

 

 

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The Architect’s Apprentice

Tonight my book club at the West Kildonan Library will be discussing The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak.   Shafak, a Turkish author,  says her book was inspired by this image of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent which has an elephant in the background. The print created in 1559, during the same time period as the events in the book, is by a German artist Melchior Lorck and is in the British Museum.

Here are four things I found interesting about the novel The Architect’s Apprentice. 

Cristofano dell'Altissimo portrait of Mihrimah Sultan

Mihrimah Sultan is the protagonist’s love interest in the book.  Here she is portrayed by Italian artist Cristofan dell’Altissimo who lived at the same time as Mihrimah did.

Although the protagonist Jahan is a fictional character author Elif Shafak has populated her novel with other characters who are real.  Jahan is an apprentice to Sinan the renowned architect of the Ottoman Empire. Sinan oversaw the building of some 500 structures and nearly 200 of them are still standing. Jahan’s love interest is the Sultan’s daughter Mihrimah. She is a historical figure as well. So are the three sultans who are in power during the time Jahan serves Sinan the Royal Architect. In one section of the book Jahan and another apprentice go to visit Michelangelo in Italy. 

the architect's apprentice book coverThere are many thought provoking reflections in the book.  Here are a three I really appreciated. 

“If you carry a sword, you obey the sword, not the other way round. Nobody can hold a weapon and keep their hands clear of blood at the same time.”

“……Jahan understood his master’s secret resided ……… in his ability to adapt to change and calamity, and to rebuild himself, again and again, out of the ruins. Sinan was made of flowing water. When anything blocked his course, he would flow under, around, above it, however he could; he found his way through the cracks, and kept flowing forward”

“Stones stay still.  A learner never.” 

another edition cover of the architect's apprenticeJahan’s closest relationship in life is with an elephant named Chota. Jahan arrives in Istanbul as Chota’s keeper and immediately sets about saving Chota’s life.  I am not necessarily a big animal lover and will admit that I’ve never understood the deep love some people have for their pets, but I was quite taken with the way Jahan and Chota care for one another, know each other so well, come to one another’s defense, respect each other and provide each other with solace and comfort at crucial times. 

posing at the taj mahalAnd finally at the end of the book Jahan travels to Agra India to help design and build the dome for the Taj Mahal.  I have been to the Taj Mahal and my husband made me pose for this photo where I am appearing to hold up the magnificent structure by the top of the dome. 

Other posts……..

The Taj Mahal At Dawn

Do Buildings Have Souls?

A Story Board in a Painting

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, History, India

Hard To Watch

A woman whose face has been damaged irreparably by acid gives a lesson in make up application. 

We went to the Cannes Lions Commercials show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery recently.  There were many excellent advertisements in the line up but the images I saw in two are still with me many days later.  

The commercials featured a woman named Reshma who has a face grotesquely scarred by an acid attack.  In the first she gives a lesson in applying lipstick and in the second she shows viewers how to put on eyeliner. 

The ads draw attention to the fact that in India there are more than a thousand acid attacks on women a year.  Women have acid thrown in their faces as revenge for rejection of a marriage proposal or sexual advance.  Some attacks are due to religious differences, conflicts over property or are gang related.  

I found a website called Stop Acid Attacks that details the problem and presents demands for stopping it. Some hopeful signs are a Supreme Court decision that hospitals in India are obligated to provide care to victims and victims will receive some compensation. Last year the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited with victims of acid attacks on a trip to India thus drawing much-needed attention to the issue. 

Acid_attack_victim creative commons

Acid attack victim

Acid attacks don’t only happen in India they are a problem throughout South East Asia. 

Other posts………

India Assaults the Senses

Skin Color

Beggars Everywhere

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Filed under India, Media