By: Alea Mohamed, Staff Writer
In Canada, April is Sikh Heritage Month. This year’s theme was Finding Sehaj – A Journey to Peace and Tranquility. Even though April has come and gone, it is important to continue recognizing Sikh heritage. The following event highlights show how vibrant Sikh culture is and how significant the community’s contributions to BC are.
On Thursday April 15, the Vancouver Maritime Museum hosted a presentation about the tragedy of the Komagata Maru. There shouldn’t be anyone in the Lower Mainland who has not heard of this tragic 1914 event where Canadian immigration authorities turned away Indian immigrants who did not possess extreme wealth. Tragically, 20 passengers were killed by Indian authorities upon returning to Kolkata. Hosted by Dr. Renisa Mawani, this presentation told the story of tragedy, alliances, inter-faith collaboration, and revolution that resulted from the Komagata Maru. The presentation was based off of a chapter in Dr. Mawani’s upcoming book titled Viapolitics: Borders, Migration, and the Power of Locomotion (out in December).
Studies have shown that art therapy can have direct positive impacts on personal wellness, along with other benefits like social skill improvement and emotional exploration. With that in mind, the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) hosted an event with art therapist, Rapinder Kaur on Sunday April 25 to provide a healing art space for the Sikh community. For many, this past year has been a traumatic one, especially in the face of the pandemic and the #FarmersProtest movement.
Also on April 25, The Nameless Collective, a podcast hosted by a group of South Asian Vancouverites, discussed the long, hidden history of the Sikh community in the Lower Mainland. This virtual walking tour took people from Vancouver all the way out to New Westminster, stopping to feature the history and stories of the beginning of the Sikh community in the Lower Mainland. The story takes us back to where the roots of the Sikh community were laid in Vancouver — starting in the Kitsilano area, moving Downtown, and settling in South Vancouver.
Then, the tour works its way through South Vancouver’s Punjabi Market neighbourhood, a neighbourhood that started really flourishing in the 70s and hasn’t stopped since.
The Sikh community is an integral part of BC’s — and Canada’s — cultural fabric. There are over 500,000 members of the Sikh community in Canada, which is the second-largest community outside of India. So keep your eyes peeled for future events and mark you calendars for Sikh Heritage Month 2022!