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View the Bio Documentary
on Hew McLeod, Sikh historian



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A historian based in Dunedin, New Zealand, who grew up on a farm at Colyton, is the subject of a new documentary.

W. Hew McLeod was born in 1935.

His father was prominent in local politics in Feilding.

Prof. McLeod's older brother, Ian, and his wife, Margaret, still live in Feilding. A younger brother, Bruce, lives in Taupo.

The documentary, Hew McLeod: A Kiwi Sikh Historian, tells the story of a New Zealander who has spent a lifetime researching the Sikhs.

He also researched the Punjabi emigration to New Zealand.

The director and writer of the documentary is a former Manawatu Standard writer, Jasmine Kaur Pujji, a Sikh-NewZealander.

She said although Prof. McLeod, an emeritus professor, is an internationally recognised expert on the history and religion of the Sikhs, he is virtually unknown in his own country.

"Anyone interested in Sikhism starts by reading W.H McLeod. He basically started the whole contemporary study of their history from a Western academic point of view, and he's still the one everyone's arguing with or agreeing with today,'' said Jasmine.

"Living in Punjab, northern India, as a Christian missionary with his wife and child in the 1950s had a really profound effect on him,'' she said.

When he left the church, Prof. McLeod went in pursuit of what became a lifelong passion for understanding the colourful, but little known group, the Sikhs.

Jasmine, who was born in New Zealand, said she had not realized until recently that Prof. McLeod was a New Zealander.

"I couldn't believe how well known he is elsewhere, especially in Sikh circles, but no one here has ever heard of him, despite what he's done for the study of Sikh history while here in New Zealand.''

Prof. McLeod is now in failing health.

He was quoted as saying at the time the documentary was being filmed in May that he was not used to all the attention.

"It's awful. I live a quiet life, normally. I think it's a lot of fuss over nothing.''

The documentary, which is being produced by Asia Downunder, is illustrated with archive footage, photographs and the religious art of the Sikhs and includes interviews with family, academics and New Zealand Sikhs.


[Courtesy: Manawatu Standard]

July 14, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), July 14, 2009, 10:48 AM.

This bio-documentary is a very timely effort and a contribution to Sikh history. For example, Hew Mcleod's "Textual Sources on Guru Nanak" is a classic, as well as his translation of Bhai Chaupa Singh's Rehatnama. Many of the questions he has raised in history need to be faced; we can't brush them aside as many would like to do. Of course, when he dismisses our tradition and lore - that riles us and rightly so. His wonderful expertise was most helpful in the RCMP turban case not so long ago. There are many more issues that people have raised but their detailed treatment is not pertinent here. The fact that there are differing opinions on his work indicates that he has stirred minds and that is important. To foster discussion and debate is one of the most important things that a scholar can and should do. Despite the Sikh community's important and substantial differences with him, Hew McLeod has been an articulate and important voice in Sikh history.

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