Kings, shields and gold bracelets: One of the biggest exhibitions on Sikhs opens in Singapore

Occupying a space of just 230 sq m, the closely packed exhibits had been whittled down from a deluge of more than 1,000 ...

SINGAPORE - An exhibition with more than 450 artefacts from Sikhs in Singapore was launched on Friday (March 26), one of the biggest showcases of the community in the country's history.

Sikhs in Singapore - A Story Untold, housed at the Indian Heritage Centre in Little India, tells of the experiences of the 13,000 followers of Sikhism here, and is mostly made up of artefacts contributed by the community over the past year...

exhibition 1.jpg

..."Sikhs in Singapore are often reduced to their physical characteristics, or seen as just policemen or guards. We hope this (exhibition) helps people realise that there is more to know," said exhibition curator Malvika Agarwal.

"Much of the Singaporean-Sikh identity has been kept alive by being passed down through successive generations of Sikhs and so it was crucial that we worked closely with the community."

March 26 was chosen for the exhibition's launch as it marked the 140th anniversary of the Sikhs' arrival in Singapore, the Indian Heritage Centre said...

exhibition 2 shield.jpg

...To help the public better understand the Sikhs and move beyond stereotypes, the curators commissioned photographer Afiq Omar to take pictures of 50 young Singaporean Sikh adults against local landscapes. Visitors can scan the photos on their mobile phones to listen to these young people talk about their lives and experiences in Singapore. 

The guest-of-honour, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, said in a pre-recorded speech at the launch that the Sikhs - and the exhibition - epitomise the spirit of chardi kala, or the ability to maintain a positive state of mind in the face of adversity...

exhibition 3.jpg

..."It is also about how people support each other. The Sikh community has always practised that seva (service) spirit...and we have seen that very much in Singapore over a century, through the gurdwaras (Sikh temples) and through other community organisations," he said.

exhibition 4 shawl.jpg

The exhibition will run until Sept 30.

4 things to look out for at exhibition

1. Painting of 10 Sikh gurus

exhibition 5.jpg

Made of wood, semi-precious stones and pigments in 19th century India, the painting is the pride of the exhibition...

...2. Instrument of Seva Singh Gandharab

exhibition 6.jpg

The instrument is a sarangi - a stringed instrument used in Punjabi folk music.

Born in Singapore in 1920, Seva Singh was a musician and an accomplished singer of gurbani, or Sikh hymns, and was a hospital assistant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

He was awarded the highest honour in India with a siropa (shawl) in the Golden Temple in Amritsar city for his cultural work and was also awarded a shield by the Indian Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.

3. A pair of Sikh guard statues from Bukit Brown Cemetery

exhibition 7.jpg

Many Chinese graves included statues of Sikh guards as grave guardians, trusting them more than their own deities and reflecting the predominant impression of Sikhs in Singapore.

This pair came from the grave of Madam Yap Woo Neo and were made in the early 20th century.

During colonial times, young Sikh men who were unable to meet recruitment guidelines of the British Sikh contingent became security guards or watchmen, or jaga, which means guard in Malay.

4. Trilogy of films

exhibition 8.jpg

Three films specially commissioned for the exhibition are on show, presenting new reflections on what it means to be a Sikh in Singapore.

Titled Being Sikh, the trilogy focuses on the role of women, tradition and faith. The first film, for instance, tells the story of an elderly woman who witnessed many historical events and, through this, highlights women's role as agents of stability and family well-being...

Add a Comment