The GT1588 team have been asked why we chose to launch the exhibition in Central London instead of, say, Southall or another major centre of Punjabi population.
Well, in the spirit of the Golden Temple itself, we obviously wanted to appeal as widely as possible – the message of Sikhi is universal and the exhibition location had to reflect that spirit of plurality and acceptance.
For a variety of reasons, the Sikhs have thus far failed to properly share the incredible treasure trove of the Gurus’ teachings with the rest of mankind. Guru Nanak was prepared to spend decades travelling some 26,000 km around the known world, mostly on foot, to communicate his message. Are we as a community doing that justice? In a word, no. So we obviously need to work on our communication skills.
Besides, the Sikhs, for all their splendid qualities, have generally been awful at PR in recent years. In these troubled times, we also need to tell the world what nice people we generally are.
We wanted to play our part in redressing that balance and what better way than putting on a world class exhibition, right in the heart of one of the world’s megacities? London is an international centre of culture and learning and receives millions of visitors every year, many of whom wish to learn more about world heritage, philosophy, history, culture, music and so on. They do this by visiting London’s best museums. The venue for the exhibition, the Brunei Gallery, is number 3 of the 12 museums and galleries in the Museum Mile, a select collection of London’s most extraordinary museums and galleries.
The strategy is working – people from across the globe have come to the exhibition and gone away with an affinity for Sikh philosophy, music, history and heritage as well as and Punjabi and Indian culture. In just the second week, we have had visitors from Argentina, France, Russia, Poland, the USA, Canada and Israel, not to mention India and Pakistan and of course non-Sikhs from the UK.
Given that the 1999 V&A ‘Arts of the Sikh Kingdom’ exhibition attracted over 100,000 people and was very well attended by Sikhs from all around the UK, do you agree with our strategy? do you think the exhibition should be toured? If so, where? Let us know your thoughts.