New York, NY: The backlash against colored people, especially after the 9/11 attacks seems to continue. The Sikhs in the US feel they are more likely to face profiling, bigotry and backlash than the average American because of the two symbols of their distinct identity – beard and turban.
To dispel this misperception and spread better awareness about the religion, a new Sikh art exhibit will be held in New York later this year to showcase the pride taken by the community in their religious and cultural practices. UK-based photographers Amit and Naroop will click portraits of Sikh Americans under “The Sikh Project” mounted by The Sikh Coalition. These portraits will be unveiled around the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
The Coalition is the largest Sikh American advocacy and community development organization in the US and works towards the realization of civil and human rights for all people, particularly Sikhs. After their critically acclaimed exhibit in the UK, the two photographers, who are proud of their Sikh heritage, said 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,” the two photographers told this correspondent in an email interview from New York.
The photography exhibit, which explores the beauty, style and symbolism of the Sikh articles of faith, will include both turbaned men and women and feature a combination of iconic Sikh Americans and a few selected winners.
Speaking about how the idea of ‘Sikh Project’ came to them, the two photographers said it was in 2013 that it struck them 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,” they said in the joint interview.
Talking about the response of the people, the two photographers said it has been “fantastic”.
“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.” They strongly feel that such exhibition will help in showing the Sikh community in the US in a positive light and help fight bigotry they face in their daily lives. “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.”