San Francisco, CA
With nearly 27 million adherents worldwide, Sikhism is among the world’s largest religions, and also one of the youngest. A diverse selection of 30 paintings, prints and textiles celebrates the artistic and cultural legacy of the Sikhs and the community’s longstanding connection to California. Delve into the life and teachings of Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak (1469–1539), a charismatic, influential teacher who defined the religion’s fundamental philosophies, which emphasize belief in one god, equality, social justice and community service.
This exhibition explores the artistic and cultural creativity that flourished under the patronage of India’s Sikh kingdoms, established in the 1800s by the dynamic warrior Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780–1839), which was continued by later Sikh rulers. Portraits and treasured objects belonging to the Maharaja himself are included in the exhibition. In particular, the portraits reflect expressions of personal and cultural identity, as well as the artistic styles of the times and places in which they were made.
Saints and Kings also draws attention to the Sikhs’ special connection to California. Among the earliest Indian immigrants to North America, Sikhs arrived on the West Coast in the early 1900s and have been integral to communities here for over a century. Today, many occupy leading roles in technology and other business sectors. Through an illustrated timeline, the exhibition tells an important story that has shaped the Bay Area’s diverse social and immigrant history.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether or not you go, Sikh Art and Literature traverses the 500-year history of a religion that dawned with the modern age in a land that was a thoroughfare of invading armies, ideas and religions and arts of the East and West.
Essays by art curators, historians and collectors and religion and literary scholars are illustrated with some of the earliest and finest Sikh paintings. Sikh modernism and mysticism is explored in essays on the holy Guru Granth Sahib; the translations and writings of the British Raj convert, M.A. Macauliffe; the fathers of modern Punjabi literature, Bhai Vir Singh and Puran Singh; and the 20th century fiction writers Bhai Mohan Vaid Singh and Khushwant Singh. Excerpts from journals of visitors to the court of the diminutive and new translations of early twentieth century poetry add depth and originality to this beautiful and accessible introduction to the art, literature, beliefs and history of the Sikhs.
Illustrated throughout with 42 colour and 92 black and white images, Sikh Art and Literature is a colourful, heartfelt, and informative introduction to the Sikh culture.