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Sikh Art from the Kapany Collection

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This volume, co-edited by Paul Michael Taylor and Sonia Dhami, brings together leading scholars of Sikhism and of Sikh art to assess and interpret the remarkable art resource known as the Kapany Collection, using it to introduce to a broad public the culture, history, and ethos of the Sikhs. Fifteen renowned scholars contributed essays describing the passion and vision of Narinder and Satinder Kapany in bringing together this unparalleled assemblage of Sikh art, some of which has been displayed in exhibitions around the globe. The Kapanys' legacy of philanthropic work includes establishing the Sikh Foundation (now celebrating its 50th year) and university endowments for Sikh studies. Through this profusely illustrated book's chapters, scholars examine the full range of Sikh artistic expression and of Sikh history and cultural life, using artworks from the Kapany Collection. [Note: this placement of the full book online is done by permission, April 1, 2020; previously only sample pages were available.] ISBN: 978-0-9700363-4-6 Published by: The Sikh Foundation International in association with the Asian Cultural History Program, Smithsonian Institution.
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Citation: Collecting the Arts of the Punjab: Art and Identity for the Sikh Diaspora in Singapore and Beyond. (By P.M. Taylor and Sonia Dhami) Pp. 18-23 [+ cumulative bibliography, pp. 344-347] in: Sikhs in Singapore -- A Story Untold (Tan Tai Yong, ed.). Singapore: Indian Heritage Centre, 2022. We are honoured to participate in the present exhibition held at Singapore’s Indian Heritage Centre by contributing this essay on a topic that is important to Sikhs in Singapore and around the world -- the role of collecting Sikh artworks within the maintenance of Sikh identity in diasporic communities. In fact, this exhibition is an example of the regular international exchange of material heritage of the Sikhs, since five important artworks from the Kapany Collection of Sikh Art were loaned to this exhibition. This loan, and the attention this exhibition is receiving in Singapore as well as internationally, are components of the growing international recognition of Sikh art, and the role it plays in diasporic Sikh communities.
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Fundamental, shared public assumptions about the value, purpose and future of natural history collections have regularly changed since the Age of Exploration, when Royal Cabinets of Curiosity (forerunners of museums and systematics) blossomed. Those shared notions treat objects as representatives of a tangible past as well as a tangible future. Assumptions about the future have shaped the criteria for selecting what is collected, and modes of exhibiting the collections. Anthropologists will note that those assumptions, like other aspects of public culture in any society, must periodically be renewed in rituals which reiterate the community's commonality of notions and assert the "sacredness" of the endeavor itself, and the units of society carrying it out. This contribution considers some examples of the collection, use, and display of early natural history objects that reached Europe from the "new world," in order to determine some of the underlying assumptions about the future that those collections entailed. Page Numbers: 263-274 Publication Date: 1993 Publication Name: Current Issues, Initiatives, and Future Directions for the Preservation and Conservation of Natural History Collections (ed. by Carolyn L. Rose, S.L. Williams, and J. Gisbert).
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[from back cover:] The exhibition "Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab" opened at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in 2004. Over subsequent years, the specific objects on view changed or “rotated” over time, first at the Smithsonian through 2007 then at other museums, as the exhibition traveled and its size and the number of artworks displayed expanded. At each location the exhibition and its transformations became the subject of extensive community involvement and co-curatorship. This book uses the exhibition’s organizational structure and content to present a brief, richly illustrated introduction to the Sikhs and their faith, history, and art. The authors describe this exhibition as one part of the Smithsonian’s larger Sikh Heritage Project, through which local, national, and international Sikh communities became involved as “co-curators” in the study, preservation, and museum representation of their own heritage. Dr. Paul Michael Taylor and Dr. Robert Pontsioen are researchers within the Smithsonian Institution’s Asian Cultural History Program, for which Paul Taylor also serves as curator and director.
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Focusing on aspects of community involvement in the Smithsonian’s Sikh Heritage Project, which since its founding in 2000 has included an exhibition and many other public activities, this paper considers some differences in the conceptualization of what constitutes “heritage” as perceived by Sikh community members, museum staff, and the broader museum public. It also considers the negotiations that took place about how Sikh heritage should be represented, because at each venue, the exhibition provided an important space for local Sikh communities to debate and celebrate their traditions, and to introduce a broad non-Sikh public to a culture that many perceived as exotic and little-known. In this interaction, Sikh communities actively tried to learn from the “culture” of museums as well, especially in two areas: The first is finding effective methods for helping a broad public better understand the Sikhs who live among them. The second is the growing acceptance of museum approaches to care of valued objects. For this, communities helped send museum staff and conservators to India and into Sikh communities, advising on the many differences between traditional Sikh social practice in treatment of “heritage” objects, and museum methods that would ensure their physical survival for much longer. Issue: 1 Volume: 1 Publication Date: 2016 Publication Name: Sikh Research Journal
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Indonesian Representations in America: The Changing Role of “Cultural Diplomacy.” Chapter 22 (pp. 219-240) in: "Menjaga Jembatan Jakarta – Washington: Dubes Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti (1998-2001)." (Edited by Ramadhan Pohan.) Washington, DC., 2001. [Essay contributed to the volume produced in honor of Indonesia's Ambassador to the USA (1998-2001), H.E. Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti.] = = = = = = = = Note: The published book of essays had some typographical errors; partially corrected here as shown. Publication Date: 2001
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This essay surveys the sites, artifacts, and literary texts associated with Guru Gobind Singh's period (1675-1708). In the process, it introduces a set of sources of information as well as attempts at reorientation of the context that produced them. In a brief conclusion, the essay highlights the need for expanding and revising the current understanding of the Guru's life.
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'Imagined Communities' examines the creation & function of the 'imagined communities' of nationality & the way these communities were in part created by the growth of the nation-state, the interaction between capitalism & printing & the birth of vernacular languages in early modern Europe.
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This book analyses the key issues concerning the phenomenon of scriptural adaptation in a cross-cultural spirit. Specifically, it seeks to addresses three questions closely related to the process of scriptural adaptation in the Adi Granth: How was the Bhagat Bani collected and canonized in the Adi Granth? Why did certain hymns of the poet-saints of Sant, Sufi, and Bhakti origin receive direct comments from the Sikh Gurus? What is the status of the Bhagat Bani in the Sikh scriptural tradition? The volume explores the interaction between early Sikhism and other religious movements in the Punjab, focusing particularly on those saints from devotional tradition who find a place in the Guru Granth Sahib. It examines Sikh gurus responses to the work of Shaikh Farid; Kabir and Sant tradition of north India; Vaishnava bhakti tradition represented by various bhagats. It offers a new understanding of religious pluralism, stressing the need to enter into dialogue with an 'open attitude' by honouring the individual commitments and maintaining differences in mutual respect and dignity.