Rare Sikh artworks donated to Montreal museum

Canada’s Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has opened a permanent exhibit of a rare collection of historic Sikh artworks.

The artworks have been donated by Indo-Canadian businessman Baljit Chadha and the late Indian-American scientist Dr Narinder Singh Kapany, who was honoured by India last year with the Padma Vibhushan for his pioneering work on fibre optics.

The collection includes depictions of the ten Sikh gurus, the famous Maharajas of the Sikh Empire (1799-1849), ritual objects, rare minted Nanakshahi coins and poignant publications on the Sikhs during the British Raj. Phulkari shawls highlighting the importance of Punjabi textile tradition are also part of the collection.

Describing it as one of the largest collections of artworks in North America, the museum said it “mirrors the core values and contributions of the Sikh people numbering approximately 27 million worldwide”.

“We are privileged to have the opportunity, for the first time in the museum’s long history, to acquire and showcase a collection of Sikh art of such magnitude. The generosity and foresight of Narinder Singh Kapany, Baljit Singh Chadha and Roshi Chadha have made it possible for the museum to expand its audience, nurture new perspectives and welcome new voices, so that we may represent the plurality of today’s society,” said museum director Stephane Aquin.

“We are proud to bring this collection of Sikh art to the museum and, by extension, the community in Montreal and beyond. It will be the first permanent exhibit of Sikh art in a major Canadian museum,” added donor Baljit Chadha.

The museum plans to organise various activities on Sikh culture and the Sikh diasporic experience throughout the year.

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