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An Australian artist pays tribute to Sikh community

Saturday January 15, 2011 02:19:46 PM, Alkesh Sharma, IANS

Chandigarh: He makes portraits of Sikh youths who study in Australia and drive taxis to earn their living. With his brush strokes, Daniel Connell tries to bring the community closer to Australians in difficult times.

Adelaide-based Connell, 40, acknowledges the contribution of the Sikh community to Australia.

"There are many Indian men and women, particularly from the Sikh community, in Australia. Their population, especially that of students, has exploded during the past five years. But I observed that Sikhs were not getting the right hospitality they deserved. This is my attempt to win respect for them."

After receiving a whopping response back home, he has brought his exhibition - named "Faith" - to Chandigarh.

The five-day exhibition will conclude Jan 17 and then move on to Ludhiana in Punjab next month.

"'Faith' has two main aims. First is to make Australians aware of the true identity of Sikhs and to explain to them how glorious this community is. Second is to make Sikhs comfortable in Australia and to give them respect and love," Connell told IANS here.

The idea of making portraits of Sikh individuals wearing turbans and having beards struck Connell while travelling in a taxi driven by a Sikh student.

"My first interaction was with Lakhvir Singh, a taxi driver in Adelaide. Throughout the 45-minute journey we talked about a wide range of topics. I found him quite interesting and sweet. I was impressed by his dignified demeanour," Connell recalled.

"The chance encounter prompted me to visually communicate the different faces of this rapidly expanding community that is clearly enriching Australian society," he said.

Connell has so far made portraits of about 20 Sikh students.

"I displayed the works at various public places in Adelaide. The response from the local people was amazing. I am happy that they have started recognising the contribution of Sikhs to our country. Right now I am working along with 10 other Sikh students who are studying in different parts of Australia," said Connell.

Connell, who has also studied the Hindi language, has been frequently visiting India since 2007. He is currently pursuing a masters in visual arts at the University of South Australia.

The artist strongly condemned the attacks on Indian students in Australia but believes they were not racial in nature. There has been a spate of assaults on Indian youths since May 2009, with a couple of incidents even proving fatal.

"Such things cannot be tolerated in any society. Indian students usually stay in the suburbs at economical places and travel late nights. Therefore they are more vulnerable to attacks by goons or thieves. However, we should not add racial elements to it. These could happen anywhere in the world," said Connell.

"Indians go to Australia to earn money, not to simply enjoy the landscape. But we must understand that every society is aggressive and does not easily accept changes. Even the Italians, who are also whites, have suffered in Australia because they could not understand English," he added.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at








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