Because of the distinct identity of Sikhs- beard and turban, they are till date, in the US, are more likely to face profiling, bigotry and backlash, than the average American.
To erase this situation and spread better awareness about Sikhism, a new Sikh art exhibit is planned in New York, to showcase the pride taken by the community in their religious and cultural practices. The exhibition is yet to be scheduled.
UK-based photographers Amit and Naroop will click the pictures of Sikh Americans under "The Sikh Project" mounted by The Sikh Coalition. On the 15th anniversary of 9/11, all these pictures would be unveiled.
The Coalition in US, is the largest Sikh American advocacy and community development organization, which also works towards the realization of civil and human rights for all the people, especially Sikhs.
The two photographers said that they are “very excited” about their upcoming exhibition.
“We are very excited! In the US, it will serve as an educational piece as well as an art project as the awareness of the Sikh identity is still misunderstood; so we are hoping it will have a wider impact,” they said.
Beauty, style and symbolism of the Sikh articles of faith, which will be explored by the photography exhibit, will also include both turbaned men and women and also feature iconic Sikh Americans and a few selected winners, in a combination.
When asked about the “Sikh Project”, the two photographers said that they got the idea in 2013, when they “noticed men of different backgrounds and ages growing beards for fashion, as part of their identity.”
"Being Sikh photographers, we wanted to show that in our culture, the beard has been a part of the Sikh identity for hundreds of years."
Saying that their UK exhibition got "overwhelming response" and "respect" for the message it was giving and for its execution process.
"The content and context resonated with people from different backgrounds as it is not just about Sikh's, it's about pride for your identity".
Amit and Naroop, who earlier worked in the US, want their latest project to "stand up to the UK Singh Project and if anything even better than it."
"In the UK, we have witnessed how powerful art can be in positively educating the broader public about the Sikh community. We can't wait to begin photographing the Sikh American experience and sharing those stories with the world as well."
The two photographers partnering with the Sikh Coalition, are currently in search of additional photography candidates and also asked all Sikh Americans, regardless of age and gender, to take part in the exhibition. The deadline date for the entry was completed yesterday.
According to Coalition's Executive Director, Sapreet Kaur, "The goal with bringing this project to the United States is the opportunity to combat bigotry by sharing a positive narrative of Sikhs in America through portraits and the incredible stories behind them."
In response to the continuous attacks on Sikh Americans in US, the Coalition was founded by volunteers on September 11, 2001.
Opining that there was a fantastic response, the two said, “The subjects involved have seen the success we have had, so they are excited to be involved. It's the complete opposite of the UK Singh project as nobody wanted to be involved at first and it took a while for it to build momentum.”
"Each one of the subjects has a story to tell, which will sit alongside the portrait. Some are positive, some are more dramatic, but through the stories, visitors of the exhibition will get to learn what it means to be an American Sikh, both in identity and also in spirit."
“An accompanying video interview of each subject will allow visitors of the exhibition to learn more about the way Sikhs are treated, both positively and negatively, and the courage it takes for the subjects to continue to wear their articles of faith,” they said.
The project, they said, is a fusion of their Sikh heritage and British upbringing.
"It is traditional in content but the execution is modern and contemporary. Hopefully this has allowed it to spread to a wider audience. Has it been successful? It's hard to judge. People have to be open to learn and understand other faiths and identities.
"All we can do is to try our best to spread the message. From the response we have had, it appears to have done the job, but there are always more people to reach."
By Phani Ch