Canadian Sikh Heritage | Desis in the Diaspora
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Desis in the Diaspora

Desis in the Diaspora Exhibit Launch

Exhibition Launch Date:

June 10th, 2018

Exhibition Dates:

June 10th, 2018 – February 28th 2019


Sikh Heritage Museum

Desis in Diaspora launched on June 10th at the Sikh Heritage Museum. Keynote speakers included Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Multiculturalism Ravi Kahlon, MLA Mike De Jong, Mayor Henry Braun, UFV Dean of Arts Dr. Jacqueline Nolte, solo artist Jagdeep Singh Raina, and Buncy Pagely, a third generation Canadian.Jagdeep Singh Raina (b.1991), is a Canadian artist from Guelph, Ontario. He holds an MFA degree in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and has been an artist in residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Fine Arts Work Center, and the Camden Arts Centre/Slade School of Fine Art.The precarious history of these communities’ lives in overlooked materials: books, oral history manuscripts, VHS tapes, records and cassettes tucked away in cardboard boxes, yellowing photographs in peeling albums stuffed in cupboards and shelves, in basements, on sporadic online databases, and in the research of scholars who have dedicated their lives to painstakingly recording a history lived in the margins.- Featured Exhibit Jagdeep Singh RainaBuncy Pagely, is a long time activist hailing from Victoria. Her family’s history is an example of the persevering spirit of early immigrants to BC shores. Buncy has contributed widely and with great depth in service to the community, and has been acknowledged for her volunteer commitment. Her volunteer work is diverse and covers many fields, such as the promotion of multiculturalism and cross-cultural health initiatives.The South Asian Studies Institute is grateful to the Canadian Museums Association and its awarding of the Dr. Shirley L Thomson Young Curators Award which helped fund the exhibit.

From dawn till dusk, you continued to shine brightly
illuminating our way back home

Despite the intense discrimination felt by Sikhs in Canada,
they forged on as they began to solidify their permanent
presence through the creation of the Khalsa Diwan Society
in 1907. This Society brought the South Asian community
together to build the first Sikh Gurdwara in North America
on West 2nd Avenue in Vancouver (est. 1907).
George and Jeto Koka Wedding
This wedding image of George and Jeto also showcases
Naranjan Singh Thauli performing the wedding. The Koka
family had a very close relationship with Mr. Thauli, who served
as the granthi for the Gur Sikh Temple for a number of year.
Indo Johal and Davendar Bains, Victoria Gurdwara
Davendar Kaur Sanghera Bains, left, and Indo Johal sing
shabads (hymns) at the Sikh Temple on Topaz Street in
Victoria (circa 1964). Davendar left Punjab as an infant in
1934 as an infant to make the journey to Canada.
South Asian women and children were finally allowed to
enter Canada in the mid 1920’s to join their husbands
and fathers.
Cheap, dirty oriental labour
In Canada, the nature and function of ‘cheap labour’ recruitment
of migrants from Asia in particular has always been highly
racialized. When Indians first arrived in British Columbia in
the early 1900’s, they worked most often in the railway, sawmill
and forestry industries. Like other immigrants, Indian migrants
worked under inequitable and difficult conditions, much less pay
and longer hours than their European origin counterparts.
From where goodness grows
This Gurdwara shares a unique and powerful story reflecting Sikh
migration experiences in British Columbia. The first Sikhs arrived in
the Fraser Valley in 1905 from Punjab and settled by working on
the farms and in the lumber industry. In 1908 local Sikhs started to
build a Gurdwara in a true community effort, under the auspices of
the Khalsa Diwan Society. It would take them four years of hard work
and great commitment – both financial and physical, to complete.
The temple was completed in 1911 and officially opened in the New Year.
These Sweet Memories, These Brown Bodies,
These Temple Steps

Rajinder Singh Gill came to Canada in 1959 when he was
sixteen years old with his father Zora Singh Gill.
Rajinder Singh’s marriage ceremony was performed
at the Abbotsford Gur Sikh temple in what was, and in
many ways still is a community affair.
Look at the left my friend, look at our best dressed hearts
These two unnamed Sikh men are walking along the weekly market on
Front Street, New Westminster.
Sweet Ride
An image from a group attending a wedding at the foot of the
steps leading to the Gur Sikh Temple. The steps were later
removed when South Fraser Way was widened. The car in
front featured in all its glory is a 1950s Plymouth Fury parked
on the street.