The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms
Major exhibition at
Harnessing the energy and activity surrounding the 300th anniversary celebrations of the formation of the Khalsa (Sikh brotherhood), the V&A worked with the Sikh community in marketing the exhibition across the country, in planning a range of exhibition related events and in ensuring that all visitors had a positive experience.
The first outreach initiative took place in August 1998 at Thetford, Norfolk. The occasion was the unveiling of the bronze equestrian statue of Maharaja Dalip Singh commissioned by the Maharaja Duleep Singh Centenary Trust. At this event V&A staff mounted a portable display of some of the highlights of the exhibition, distributed publicity in both Panjabi and English and recruited volunteers for further outreach.
This initiative was followed up in December 1998 when forty people from the Sikh community, representing Birmingham, Coventry, Essex, Kent, all London boroughs, Middlesex, Nottingham, Slough, Warwick, Watford and the West Midlands, attended an information session. Volunteers from this group, along with V&A staff, disseminated information on the exhibition at other community events right up to and during the exhibition period.
The exhibition was
also marketed through an effective poster campaign, particularly targetting
areas where there is a substantial Sikh community and a mailing list to
Sikh gurdwaras (temples) and organisations across the country.
The advice from the Sikh community on the content of the programme and appropriate artists, speakers and teachers proved invaluable. The exhibition events leaflet gave information about this extensive programme in both Panjabi and English. The panels to the various sections of the exhibition were also translated into Panjabi and distributed in booklet form.
Volunteers from the
Sikh community managed a Sikh help desk every weekend throughout the exhibition.
They assisted individuals and groups from the Sikh community introducing
them to the Nehru Gallery of Indian Art as well as to the temporary exhibition,
and also helped members of the general public who often enquired about
various aspects of Sikh culture.
FEEDBACK ON THE EXHIBITION
The exhibition was
generally very well received. The feedback was invaluable in helping the
V&A plan a subsequent series of lectures and community exhibition,
'Sacred Spaces', which has been loaned out to various organisations including
Sikh museums and gurdwaras. Here are some of the comments:
the good work, we wish you the best of luck."
were not just studying 'another religion,' they were inspired"
and interesting, makes you proud to be a Sikh."
There were some comments on the content of the exhibition and recommendations on how it could be improved:
exhibition was good but we thought that a lot more to do with Sikhs, could
have been on show, paintings of our gurus. Also not everybody could read
English, so Panjabi should have been available (in the exhibition itself)."
would like to see more of Sikh bravery and sacrifices fighting against
inequality and aggression"
find it exhausting walking long corridors without resting places."
There were ideas on
how to take the work out to the regions:
exhibition for Sikh gurdwaras."
There were ideas on how to sustain the interest of the Sikh community:
"To have more
workshops ... and spacing them out bi-monthly so as to keep the interest
"We are working
on the Sikh Cyber Museum (virtual museum). We intend to approach the V&A