Memorial to Sikh WWII Hero Wins Prestigious National Art Award: TOM ACRES
Mahinder Singh Pujji Memorial
Gravesend, United Kingdom
Gravesend’s newest landmark has won a national award which recognises the best public statues and artwork.
The Mahinder Singh Pujji Memorial on the riverfront at St Andrew’s Gardens commemorates and celebrates a Sikh WWII hero and the involvement of those around the world who fought for Britain in military campaigns from 1914-2014.
Creator Douglas Jennings received the Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture at a ceremony in London.
The statue is of Second World War airman Mahinder Singh Pujji DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), one of several hundred thousand Sikhs who fought for the Allies during the Second World War.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery as a Royal Air Force pilot.
He was one of only 18 qualified pilots from the subcontinent who volunteered for the RAF in 1940.
Mahinder Singh was born in 1918 in Simla (then in Punjab) and spent his final years in Gravesend before dying on September 18, 2010, aged 92. His statue was unveiled last year after a public subscription raised £70,000.
Mr Jennings recreated every part in minute detail, right down to the buttons on his coat.
He said: “I immersed myself in the commission for eight months and my references were based on knowledge gleaned from family members of the subject and senior members of the RAF.
“Mahinder Singh refused to wear the protective head gear because of his religion. Researching the turban was fascinating; I learnt how to tie the turban he wore from Jagdev Singh Virdee."
"He highlighted there are several different ways of tying a turban; however Mahinder tied his in a distinct way with six folds and a high peak. It was paramount that I got that right.”
Council leader Cllr John Cubitt (Con) was delighted to see the statue win the hotly contested award.
“The statue has rapidly become a major feature of Gravesend’s historic riverside and it is a wonderful and long-overdue tribute to all those who served this country,” he said.
“The award is recognition of the sculptor’s incredible attention to detail and is truly deserved."
"All who see it cannot fail to be impressed and I’m absolutely thrilled for Douglas and very thankful that he has given the borough such a tremendous and enduring landmark as well as providing cultural heritage for future generations.”
[Courtesy: Kent-on-Line. Edited for sikhchic.com]
November 17, 2015
Conversation about this article
1: Roop Dhillon (London, United Kingdom), November 17, 2015, 7:46 AM.
Brillient! I will visit and see.
2: Japneet Kaur (London, United Kingdom), November 17, 2015, 7:58 AM.
Now, this is a memorial! Bravo! This is how grand our memorials should be, at the very least, and then, much, much more. I must confess that I was most disappointed in the WW1 memorial unveiled the other day at the National Memorial Arboretum here. It lacked vision, it lacked gravitas, it lacked everything. What's the point of doing half-hearted efforts if you don't intend to do justice to the subject? For heaven's sake, get professionals and real artists involved, not amateurs and only sevadars, in the actual implementation.
3: Charanjit Singh Tathgar (Ipswich, United kingdom), November 17, 2015, 12:21 PM.
It is about time recognition is given for the efforts put in and sacrifices made by people who were not in the national limelight but who served the country well.
4: Shamsher Singh Sodhi (London, United Kingdom), November 17, 2015, 5:00 PM.
I was not originally a fan of Mahinder Singh Pujji as I felt that to abandon his Sikh saroop was a betrayal of the very identity for which he was recognised. However the memorial is a stunning piece of work which in a way restores his Sikh identity. I and many others agree with Japneet Kaur that the mediocre effort installed a few weeks ago -- in another memorial for WW1 heroes -- fails to do justice to the gravitas and quantum of Sikh sacrifice. It is shoddy, lacks detail, and isn't worthy of the purpose it seeks to achieve. If you're going to do something for the Sikhs, do it properly or not at all. We need professionalism, not egotism.
5: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), November 17, 2015, 6:01 PM.
It's a beautiful and powerful memorial.
6: Rup Singh (Canada), November 18, 2015, 1:49 PM.
Very impressive. Congratulations to all involved. The artist did an amazing job.