Kids Corner


Canada's Royal Ontario Museum Commissions Singh Twins Painting on Sikh-Canadians





The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has announced the unveiling of Sikhs in Canada, a painting by internationally renowned UK-based contemporary artists, The Singh Twins - Amrit and Rabindra Kaur Singh.

The painting has been commissioned for the ROM’s permanent collection. It will be on view ONLY from May 18 to May 21, 2012,  on Level 1B, outside Eaton Theatre. After this, it will be put back in the vault until Fall 2012. The work will be “unveiled” at 2 pm on Saturday, May 19th, with a lecture by the artists in the Signy & Cléophée Eaton Theatre.

The lecture is open to the public, who can attend free with museum admission on a first come first serve basis.


Sikhs in Canada was commissioned by the ROM in 2006, completed in 2010, and is now part of the ROM’s permanent collection.

It was created by The Singh Twins in their “past-modern” style (a play on the term “post-modern”), combining techniques of traditional Indian painting and modern content. The work is a tour-de-force reflecting the historical and cultural evolution of the Sikh community in Canada.

"The painting is a testament to the history of the Sikh community in Canada, to the fabric of Canadian multiculturalism, and to the role that culture and cultural organizations play in preserving that history and encouraging its future,” says Deepali Dewan, Curator of South Asian Arts at the ROM. “Certain decorative details such as the maple and paisley motifs signify the integrated nature of the [Sikh-Canadian] identity and the central role they’ve come to play in the fabric of Canadian life.”

Read from top to bottom, the painting moves from the scenic West coast of Canada to the urban metropolis of Toronto, and from early migrants to contemporary Canadian society. It features Sikh contributions in the early twentieth century to the infrastructure of Canada (Canadian Pacific Railway and Liner, Mayo and Doman Lumber Companies), their struggles and triumphs to establish communities (the Komagata Maru Incident, establishing gurdwaras, and installation of the first Guru Granth Sahib in Vancouver), and their participation in key positions in government, business, media, and arts (Federal and provincial Parliaments in Ottawa, the first turbaned officer of the RCMP, OMNI TV, and dhol player).

These are just a few of the many references in the work. Other decorative details created by the artists provide a symbolic dimension: the Monarch Butterfly to represent Sikh migration and the combined paisley and maple leaf motif to represent the Sikh-Canadian identity. The ROM is included to represent the key role played by Canadian cultural institutions in preserving and encouraging the heritage of diverse communities that are now part of the Canadian fabric.This acquisition was made possible with the generous support of the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust Fund.


London-born twin sisters Amrit and Rabindra were trained in traditional miniature painting, but describe their current work as ‘Past-Modern’. Their paintings often depict scenes of work and life in Sikh Diasporas while exploring cultural, social and political issues in a witty and symbolic style. By combining elements from both Western and Eastern influences, their work merges traditional and non-European aesthetics - constantly challenging stereotypes and perceptions of Sikh identity.

Sikhs in Canada offers a snapshot of Sikh-Canadian history from the artists’ perspective and personal experience in Canada.


[Courtesy: ROM. Edited for]

May 16, 2012


Conversation about this article

1: Gurteg Singh (New York, U.S.A.), May 16, 2012, 4:16 PM.

I can see the the Sikh flag in faint colors in the background, but I do not understand why an Indian flag has been shown and, that too, prominently in a Sikh-Canadian painting?

2: The Singh Twins (United Kingdom), June 07, 2012, 6:37 PM.

The Indian flag is there because Sikhs in Canada played a key role in the Indian Freedom Movement. Hence, the Gurdwara in the painting with the Indian flags and signs in support of Indian Independence are details taken from actual historical photographs of the period. Hope this answers your question.

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