Shining a light on Sikh history

Bush Diwan co-curator Amrit Gill with Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa's 'Fence sitting' photographs. 360360 Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS

A new place for gathering is now open for those within the Sikh community in Casey, with the Bush Diwan exhibition now open in the Bunjil Place Gallery until 12 November, acknowledging diverse stories of Sikh migration and community formation in Australia.

First exhibited at the Benalla Art Gallery last year, curated by Amrit Gill and Reina Takeuchi and developed by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, the exhibition centres on the story of Siva Singh, an early 20th century regional Victorian resident living at Reef Hills outside Benalla, Sikh community leader and civil rights campaigner.

Across October, a series of talks and workshops will also be held to explore the exhibition’s themes and ideas further, including a performance by artist Anindita Banerjee, a poetry workshop and a curator talk.

Using media ranging from screen, stills, sound, performance, sculpture, and textiles, the exhibition shines a light on Sikh history in Australia by exploring identity and the foundations of community.

Ms Gill said as diwan was a Punjabi word which means gathering or religious event, the local Sikh community responded well to the exhibition during a community ambassador event on Saturday 16 September.

“They felt that it can have a lot of importance in the South Eastern diaspora,” she said.

“We took the word diwan’ as a starting point for this exhibition.”

The artworks include Amardeep Shergill’s ‘Aussie Phulkari’, incorporating the folk embroidery of the Punjab with the Australian colours of green and gold, and a poem named ’Sea, Pilgrim’ from artist Manisha Anjali.

Ms Gill said the works deal with themes of how individuals and communities settle and restart, find solidarity within themselves and others and gather in conversations.

“We hope that it might resonate with people,” she said.

City of Casey chair of administrators Noelene Duff PSM said providing arts and cultural opportunities which reflect the stories held within Casey’s community was an important part of council’s responsibilities.

“As one of the most culturally diverse municipalities in Victoria, council is committed to providing a wide range of arts and cultural experiences that bring our community together,” she said.

“Bush Diwan is a unique exhibition that allows us to appreciate different forms of cultural expression, foster cultural awareness and build community connection.”

Curator Reina Takeuchi said the exhibition does not simply recount Mr Singh’s migration journey.

“Instead, it weaves together multiple narratives centered on reconciliation and community building,” she said.

“It serves as a window into the wealth of untold Asian Australian migration stories – providing us a valuable opportunity to delve deeper into pivotal moments in Australia’s history of migration.”

For more information on the exhibition and related public programs, visit Bunjil Place’s website at