Sikh-Britons Star in Landmark PaintingDate: Thursday, 15 July, 2010
World-renowned British artists, Amrit and Rabindra Kaur Singh - popularly known as 'The Singh Twins' - have just released their latest masterpiece amidst wide acclaim.
Titled ‘EnTWINed', the painting is one of several artworks commissioned by the Museum of London for permanent display at their new Galleries of Contemporary London, which opened this July and is the artists' personal response to two paintings in the Museum's Collections by Victorian painter Nelson O'Neil, called Eastward Ho! and Home Again.
The first of the latter two shows British soldiers embarking a ship and the second details them disembarking after completing their tour of duty fighting the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
Taking several hundred hours to complete, the Twin's new work explores the Mutiny theme from the Indian perspective, replacing what O'Neil presents as the British heroes of this important event in Anglo-Indian history with India's heroes. Alongside them and watching from the clouds above are figures representing India's long history of struggle for freedom from successive waves of foreign invasion - such as Guru Gobind Singh, Maharana Pratap, Sardar Bhagat Singh, Sardar Udham Singh and Gandhi. Whilst colophons containing quotes from a 19th Century Illustrated London News article on the Anglo-Sikh Wars and George Bush respectively, make parallels between the rhetoric used in justification for conquest during the Mutiny and the more recent invasion of Iraq.
The Twins use the theme of disembarking to explore ideas around the legacy of Empire, bringing past and present together through an intricate collage of people and other details - including Sikh Veterans of the British Indian Army and the two World Wars and words written in the border which are common to the English language but have their origins in India.
Elsewhere, the impact of the Mutiny is developed further through imagery that pertains to the ongoing Anglo-Indian relationship - not least the phenomenon of the the Sikh Diaspora. In this respect, the child Maharaja Duleep Singh (said to be the first UK resident Sikh) and the Twins' own grandmother and father (who came to England in 1947 after the Partition of India) represent the beginnings of Sikh (and Indian) migration to Britain. Whilst, a fantasy British cityscape and famous faces of Bollywood, Hollywood, UK and beyond - including England cricketer 'Monty' Mudhsuden Singh Panesar, Prince Charles, a mehndi-sporting Madonna, Victoria Beckham and Signature (the Bhangra Michael Jackson finalists from Britain's Got Talent), symbolise the cross-cultural influence and outcome of Anglo-Sikh and -Indian relations and the positive contribution of Sikh-Britons and other Asians across the fields of commerce, arts, entertainment and sport, to name but a few.
The Twins themselves are depicted wearing the official Singh tartan from Scotland - (one of the many symbols of British multiculturalism found in the painting), poised with paintbrush and note pad as surveyors and documenters of society and culture.
The finished painting is an eclectic mix of the historical and the contemporary, the serious and the ephemeral.
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