Hear Our Lions Roar: The Singh History
In our community the term “Singh” is associated with fearlessness, strength, devotion, brotherhood and unity. The beard and turban have come to symbolize these traits in the physical form. Together, these act as the Sikh man’s uniform. These physicalities and titles that come together to create an identity for the individuals baptized within the religion. It’s safe to say that within our community we naturally respond to Singhs with respect and identify them as representative of the love and oneness Guru Gobind Singh Ji strived to create. This, unfortunately, isn’t always the case with the media.
Hear Our Lions Roar: The Singh Media
The relationship between Sikhs and the Media have always been an uneasy one. Stereotypes, overgeneralizations and plain ignorance fill headlines in western media. The National Geographic once featured a program titled “Inside Al Qaeda” where they examined the Islamic terrorist group and as narrator described the group’s terror reign on the world, they showed images of two Sikhs visiting the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. These men were neither Islamic, terrorists nor were they in any way affiliated with member of “Al Qaeda.” They were men with beards and turbans. They were Sikhs. Sikhs that continue to be misrepresented by the media. The National Geographic later apologized for mistaking the innocent Sikhs as members of Al-Qaeda. The 9/11 attacks are a large part of the reason why Sikhs are often portrayed negatively in the media. Reports show that Sikhs were the target of multiple hate crimes following the attack simply for wearing the religious turban and having a long beard. Along with acts of hate and racism, Sikhs are often the target of miseducation by the media. Following the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Fox News Host Gregg Jarrett asked a nephew of one of the victims if they had been and prior “anti-Semitic” attacks against the Sikh community. One CBS news story on Sikhs referred to them as “people of Middle Eastern origins.” Sikhs continue to face news reporters who are under-educated or simply misinformed about the religion and the Sikh appearance.
The image that the media has about Sikhs are in no way an accurate representation of the majority of Sikhs who are active, hard-working members of society. Sikhs are warriors not terrorists; they are peacemakers not Al-Qaedans—Sikhs are doctors, teachers, musicians, writers—and this is exactly what “The Singh Project” is created to show.
Hear Our Lions Roar: The Singh Project
The Sikh community is in dire need of individuals who can create an accurate image of the Singh identity. This is exactly what photographers Amit and Naroop have done. By creating the project, they tell the public that Singhs cannot be boiled down to the narrow-minded views that some media outlets hold. Singhs are each unique in their talents, personalities and in their contributions to society. The project replaces the media’s depiction of Singhs as terrorists, extremists or Al-Qaedan’s with images of the everyday Singh that shows the true nature of the religion: brotherhood, oneness and community. The Singh Project uses photography to show the beauty and art behind the Sikh man’s turban and beard. It shows the public that this image, the Singh uniform, is something to be understood, respected and—most importantly—something to be celebrated within any community!
“Through [Amit and Naroop’s] photography, they also aim to raise awareness on topics and issues that they feel passionate about. The Singh Project is close to their heart. A marriage of their faith and talent, it represents their identity as British born photographers and their Punjabi, Sikh roots.”
The Interview with Amit and Naroop
The idea came from the rise in the popularity of the beard in mainstream culture. We began to see that men of all races and ages were growing their beards as statement of their identity. It had become fashionable and cool.
We found this intriguing. Being Sikhs, the beard has always been an integral feature of the identity of a Sikh man. However, no had documented this is a modern way. So we thought why not show people how Sikh men wear their beards, and equally important, their turbans. For them its not for fashion. It’s part of who they are.
2.) How have people responded to the project?
Internationally the response has been phenomenal. Everybody wanted to know more about these men. The Singh Project has been featured in press all across Europe, America, and Asia. We have been totally blown away.
3.) What is your relationship to the people who are featured?
Some of the men we knew. One of the older men is my grandfather. Other men we saw at the temple, Sikh events and even just walking on the street. Now we have become friends with a lot of them.
4.) When is your next exhibition?
We’re planning an exhibition in Manhattan, New York, next year.
5.) What surprised you the most when creating this project?
When creating it, at the beginning, a lot of men refused to take part. I think they didn’t see what we were trying to achieve with it. But once we had photographed a few men and could show the finished images to people we wanted to photograph, we were inundated with Sikh men who wanted to take part. But at the beginning itwas hard.
6.) How has Kickstarter contributed to your project?
Kickstarter funded the project. Without it we wouldn’t have been able to raise the money and put on our exhibition. So it has played a major role.
7.) What can our readers expect from you in the future?
We are working on a number of different projects as well as the commissioned work we do for clients. Our projects are about highlighting issues or things we are interested in. Usually they take a few years to create, so look out for our next one soon!
8.) Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you two or the project?
We would like to bring The Singh Project to Canada, Vancouver and Toronto would be good cities to exhibit them. We’re looking for Canadian sponsors to work with on this as we know there is a big demand for the project to be shown in Canada.