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Lady Gatka: Italian Sikh Paints Gurus

The sound of it was so familiar to my soul. So close to my essence, that I started to say I AM A SIKH

SikhNet recently spoke with a unique woman named Siri Kartar Kaur Khalsa. Here is our interview with her...


(SN) Can you tell us about your background? 

(SKK) I was born in Rome, Italy. Since I was a toddler the only remembrance of me was to be on the balcony of our kitchen, singing loud out into the space. And to be totally absorbed into drawing and coloring. I was a very shy, contemplative kid. At age14 I wanted to enroll to the only high school that had Art as prominent study, and practice. I was accepted at the Art Institute, also awarded with a full scholarship for outstanding talent. Later I earned a Master degree in Art History: India became the primary focus of my curriculum and my thesis on the mudras in the archeological Buddhism was awarded cum laudis. This publication is still now utilized and counted among the reference texts for studies and research at the University of La Sapienza.

I had this strong pull toward metaphysic, meditation, contemplative life, since my teenage years. I wanted to learn yoga. Finally, in 1978 I met a friend that introduced me to Kundalini Yoga. She was practicing at Guru Ram Das Ashram, by the Pantheon.

In love with KY, the community, I soon moved in, so I could do Sadhana and be part of the first Sangat of Rome. Only Bir Singh knew how to play guitar, and lead the morning meditations. He needed support. I asked him to teach me basic cords, so we could alternate to do this seva .I was In love with the meditations, and I had the encounter with Guru Nanak, reading the JapJi every morning,at the beginning of sadhana. The sound of it was so familiar to my soul. So close to my essence, that I started to say I AM A SIKH, I don’t recognize myself as a Catholic. Little disturbing to my family, but with the years they all recognized that I am a Sikh, happy and proud to be.

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At Ashram ~ The Lady first on the left (front row)

(SN) I know that becoming a Sikh changed your life. What did you do at this point? 

(SKK) I immersed myself into learning Gurumukhi (at that time extremely sparse resources.no computer not literature), learning how to play kirtan with the guitar. I started to make renditions of several pauri of Jap Ji, out of my love for Guru Nanak. The Bahuta Karam rendition become popular in Europe and USA.

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Also, with GuruShabad Singh De Santis we opened a Yoga and Gatka Center “La Spada Khalsa”, The Khalsa sword, in order to practice, teach and spread the Bhakti & Shakti power of Guru Gobind Singh.

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Beside my immersion into Kundalini yoga, Gatka, Chanting, I was also deep into the mystery and beauty of the arts from India and Central Asia, as I was studying it. My art shifted. I started to paint Adi Shaktis, the correspondent of the Feminine Power that in Catholicism is represented by Mary, the Madonna, MA Donna. (Hansraj S, the beautiful musician from LA, calls me Sat Donna).

When I moved to USA, in 1988, leaving by Guru Ram Das Ashram, I felt a call to paint the Gurus.

(SK) I know that you are enjoying your life in Los Angeles. What do you do now?

(SKK) I teach Gatka, Kundalini Yoga, Chanting and Meditation, mostly in the form of Workshops, or privately, in USA and Europe. The workshops are targeted to enhance vitality and deepen into devotion. Sometimes I end it with Bhangra, to shake the energy, into a fun celebrative mood. Yogi Ji introduced us to Bhangra, making us jump, sweat and move at the end of each of his classes at Yoga West!

At this time, I also started a teaching partnership with a doctor specialized in memory loss. We met at the Brain Longevity Seminar of Dr. Dharma and and his wife, Kirti Kaur, and now we are offering our first workshop in Colorado.

I paint daily, mostly on commission. Right now, I am finishing the second piece for the biography of Yogi Bhajan “Messenger from the Guru’s House” written by Guru Fatha Singh.

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I just installed 28 pieces at the Guru’s Langar Hall, in LA. This art display, “Devotion” is to inspire people, and 30% of sales will benefit GRDA.

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Last month I completed two panels for a yoga center in San Diego. It depicts Guru Nanak, Guru Ram Das and Baba Siri Chand. Also, Dya Singh , the amazing ragi from Australia commissioned me the cover of his new book :”Zen of Seeking”

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Please tell us more about your art.  

The skylight at the entry of Guru Ram Das Ashram in Los Angeles was empty for years. Then suddenly I realized that the 4 white trapezoidal spaces were like canvases. I immediately imagined the inspirational images that were going to populate them: the first 4 Mehl.

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I humbly started sketching Guru Nanak, conveying all my devotion to Him, paying homage with this offering to my beloved GRDA, the place that allowed me to first experience Chardi Kala.

Guru Nanak greets the devotees entering the divine space of the Gurdwara, sitting in elegant calmness, engaging and inspiring us to be still in our own essence and beauty. All creatures gather around His radiant presence in great reverence, feeling safe and in harmony with the entire Universe.

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The sequence moves clockwise: next panel depicts Guru Angad joyfully inspired, formulating the Gurumukhi alphabet. The letters are flying around carrying the high vibration of the Shabad Guru that permeates the entire space. Devotees are approaching, called by the Naad (myself and my son as well) praying in humble devotion and great expectation. The Ek Ong Kar above shines the luminosity of the Naam, while on the other side the first 2 Mehl walk side by side. Lahna carries a full basket of mustard, not bothered by the multiple stains on his good chola, as he is fully absorbed on his seva.

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Third panel: I see Guru Amar Das humbly sitting at the bottom of Goindwal, dispensing fresh fragrant flowers to all of us. The more humble we are the better we can serve each other. He reminds me to always share an innocent heart in a youthful and joyful way. The vignettes above are reminders of his seva and how greatly he served in the light of equanimity, promoting and holding a high status for women.

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The panel of Guru Ram Das lies above the Pullki Sahib. He is the Raj Yog, he is the entry, the access to the Golden Temple, as he started this divine project. Royal columns, fragrant blossoming trees and succulent mangos are framing his crystal pure presence. He graciously sits on a lotus, surrounded by the holy water charged with potential miracles. With his gesture, he shows us the way toward the highest path of pure light and beauty: the path of a prayerful heart.

“You, only You Guru Ram Das, can reside in this heart of mine. Today, tomorrow, forever”. This is my daily prayer.

Siri Kartar lives in Los Angeles, California and is a member of the Los Angeles Sikh community.

To see more examples of her work visit:

SiriKartarGallery.com for art

SiriKartar.com for yoga and gatka

If you know someone you would like to be featured in the Sikh Artist Corner, please contact us!

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Source: https://www.sikhdharma.org/sikh-art-corner-siri-kartar-kaur-khalsa/

 

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