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New Directions in Sikh Art








Type of activity



In Person


Saturday November 5, 2022 at 02:00 pm

This panel brings together local artists, curators and writers to consider the Collection of Sikh Art at the MMFA. We will discuss the works on display, their conceptual framing, and future possibilities for the new gallery.

Sajdeep Soomal, PhD student in the Department of History at the University of Toronto

Megha Sharma Sehdev, Lecturer in anthropology, sociology, and history at Concordia University
Pasha M. Khan, Associate Professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies and Chair in Urdu Language and Culture at McGill University
Balbir K. Singh, Assistant Professor of Art and Racial Justice in the Department of Art History at Concordia University


Public Partner: Conseil des arts de Montréal

Cultural activities related to the Sikh Art Collection at the MMFA are made possible thanks to the generous support of Narinder Singh Kapany and Satinder Kaur Kapany - Sikh Foundation International (U.S.A.), and the Honourable Baljit Singh Chadha and Roshi Chadha.

About the panel
The panel asks: How might we use Sikhi as a conceptual starting point in a way that refuses its (post)colonial valences of religion, identity and nation? Tracing alternative itineraries within Sikhi, the panellists will brainstorm and imagine how to build a collection of Sikh art that is fluid, dynamic and open-ended, rather than sovereign, categorically fixed and closed to outsiders. With that in mind, we will interpret the material, methodological and conceptual stakes behind the works on display, delving into the questions that they draw out about gender, caste, labour, modernity, environment and militarism.

This roundtable discussion is one of three planned for this year under the Rethinking the Museum program, an initiative funded by the Conseil des arts de Montréal. The goal of these roundtables is to reflect on the representation of multiple perspectives in museums, as knowledge-based institutions that mirror the issues of the day.

About the moderator
Sajdeep Soomal is a PhD student in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on science and technology studies, histories of consciousness and madness, and contemporary art practices within and beyond South Asia. Sajdeep currently works as a research assistant at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where he helps coordinate acquisitions, conducts collections research and organizes public programming for the Kapany Collection of Sikh Art. In addition to serving as Chairperson of the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC), he is a member of Sanghum Film and of the programming committee of InterAccess.

About the panellists
Prof. Pasha M. Khan is an Associate Professor and Chair in Urdu Language and Culture at McGill University. He is interested in the narrative qissah genre and storytelling in languages such as Urdu-Hindi, Punjabi, and Persian, as well as South Asian literature more broadly. He is the author of The Broken Spell: Indian Storytelling and the Romance Genre in Persian and Urdu. Among his other research projects, he is currently writing about the texts produced for Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Megha Sharma Sehdev is an anthropologist who specializes in South Asian aesthetics and religious traditions. In addition to her ongoing work on legal structures in Delhi, she maintains an interest in the material and poetic entanglements of Punjabi identity, notably on aspects of Punjabi being, becoming and possibility. She received her doctoral degree from Johns Hopkins University in 2018, and has held a number of prestigious postdoctoral fellowships, including the Mellon Sawyer Seminar fellowship at Tufts University in 2019-20. Currently she is a lecturer in anthropology, sociology, and history at Concordia University in Montreal. Her writing has been published in Outlook India, Stimulus Respond, Feminist Anthropology, and the South Asian Studies Journal, among others.

Balbir K. Singh is Assistant Professor of Art and Racial Justice in the Department of Art History, as well as nominee for a Canada Research Chair within the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University. Balbir’s work centres on the racial, gendered, and sexual politics of embodiment, surveillance, and policing. She is currently at work on her first book manuscript entitled Militant Bodies: Racial/Religious Opacity and Minoritarian Self-Defense, which takes a materialist feminist approach to explore questions focusing on post-9/11 racial and religious hyper-policing of Muslim and Sikh bodies. She has articles published in a number of academic journals, and serves as Reviews Editor for Art Journal.


Location: To access the event, please enter through the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace, located at 2075 Bishop Street.

Reservation terms: Free event. Reservations are not required.

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