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  • Technorati: graph / links

    ‘Sikh-ing his Britishness’


    by Sunny on 5th March, 2007 at 3:45 pm    

    chaz singh

    Are people taking this Britishness malarky too far? Heh. “My project was to show I’m a Sikh but I’m a British Sikh, all these pictures are powerful to show my Britishness in Plymouth. This is my way of saying I can blend in anywhere I like but still, as a Sikh I’ll always have that identity,” Chaz Singh told BBC Devon recently.

    He has an exhibition at the Barbican in Plymouth starting today on this. Although it’s interesting he talks of Britishness while playing up English symbolism.



      |     |   Add to del.icio.us   |   Share on Facebook   |   Filed in: Culture




    53 Comments below   |  

    1. ZinZin — on 5th March, 2007 at 5:03 pm  

      Are people taking this Britishness malarky too far?

      Short answer yes.
      The British have been quiet patriots whose national pride only comes to the fore when under threat. Britishness in the context of the immigration debate is frankly bizarre as no-one can define it never mind impose it.

      Chaz is obviously trying too hard.

    2. Leon — on 5th March, 2007 at 5:11 pm  

      I read his name a Chav first time round…

      Anyway, sometimes I think people will say any old cobblers about being British if there’s some funding in it.

    3. sonia — on 5th March, 2007 at 5:14 pm  

      well if he wants to conflate some symbols together which make sense for him as an individual then good for him. every individual should be able to do the same!

    4. Amrit — on 5th March, 2007 at 5:19 pm  

      Chas? Chas?! What is that meant to be short for?

      I’ve heard some ludicrous names and abbreviations in my time - we Indians are the masters of that particular activity (Lorinder, Dylon, Kiranpal), but I simply cannot figure what Chas might be short for.

    5. Amrit — on 5th March, 2007 at 5:20 pm  

      Chaz, sorry.

    6. Sid Love — on 5th March, 2007 at 5:20 pm  

      yep, toe-curlingly akin to the Cooper/Kapoors.

    7. Jagdeep — on 5th March, 2007 at 5:21 pm  

      Wow! The cynicism! It’s like Duchamp never happened! Chas upsets the PP Left with his depiction of King Arthur as a sardarji! Curse those funding bodies!

      Chas, you should have gone fishing off Lands End, caught a shark, cut it in half and pickled it in brine. Would be worth a few million quid by now.

    8. Sid Love — on 5th March, 2007 at 5:22 pm  

      Chas? Chas?! What is that meant to be short for?

      Charles Singh?

    9. ally — on 5th March, 2007 at 5:24 pm  
    10. ally — on 5th March, 2007 at 5:28 pm  

      Leon: “I read his name as Chav first time round…”

      with good reason it would seem:

      http://www.ratemyturban.com/index.php?q=user/chaz_singh

    11. Leon — on 5th March, 2007 at 5:36 pm  

      with good reason it would seem:

      http://www.ratemyturban.com/index.php?q=user/chaz_singh

      Ah yes I suppose this should be filed under “just a bit of harmless fun”?:D But yeah Chav Singh, almost sounds like a rapper…

    12. Rumbold — on 5th March, 2007 at 5:43 pm  

      I second Jagdeep (though Arthur was (probably) not a king).

      With regards to the exhibition, it is nice to see that not everyone has divorced Englishness from Britishness. After the Anglo-Sikh wars of the mid-19th centuries the Sikhs were heavy contributors to the British military, so in a sense this is just a continuation of that, albeit in symbolic form. Or am I reading too much into it?

    13. Jagdeep — on 5th March, 2007 at 6:00 pm  

      Cheers Rumbold.

      Seems to me to be a pretty basic, though not terribly original, juxtaposition of contrasting symbols to suggest how Chaz feels his personal identity plays out as a British Sikh. Using archetypal / stereotypical symbols of Englishness / Britishness is part of the point. Either way, he’s not claiming to be the Damien Hirst, and I’m sure the people of Devon would find it of some interest.

      This exhibition of modern art, however, is much more original and subtle and interesting, I think:

      “Harminder Singh Judge is a live artist. His work challenges romanticised notions and misunderstandings of spiritualism within Indian and Eastern culture which have stemmed from inaccurate portrayals and stereotypical visualisations within Western imagery - through a (con)fusion of cultural customs, dress and ritual.”

      Click here: Harminder Singh Judge - Chonkary Maro

      Artist’s statement:

      “There are certain prominent preconceptions within Western culture about the beliefs and rituals of Indian and Eastern religion that are incorrect. These constant romanticised notions and misunderstandings of spiritualism and interaction have stemmed from inaccurate portrayals and stereotypical visualisations of the culture through Western imagery. My work is predominantly the realisation of my reaction to these false ‘facts’, largely those centred around Sikhism”

    14. Kulvinder — on 5th March, 2007 at 6:05 pm  

      Im ambivalent about the whole thing, we’re pretty much at the point now where i think his religious identity as such is irrelevant in nationalist politics (if thats what he wants - im not sure i could be widely off the mark). To give an analogy Michael Howard was accepted by the tories without his religious identity being an issue, and i don’t really see why it should be different in his case. I’m presupposing the way he thinks, and i disagree with him, but him being a sikh has nothing to do with that.

    15. El Cid — on 5th March, 2007 at 8:09 pm  

      each to their own
      good luck to him

    16. William — on 5th March, 2007 at 8:10 pm  

      When it comes to identity and also art I am very much person centred in this. People can be who they want, display it, experiment with it, change it, recombine it. Until we have objective arguments as to how we should be and remain I am for the relative up to but not quite the solopsistic (do what though wilt but harm no one!). Sometimes this is serious sometimes it is all a bit of fun depending on the person and the situation. The polarities of overdone/underdone, expression/restraint, loud/quiet and which is appropriate in any context, is, at least in art a common area of contestation. As both art and identity start from the notion of ones being in the world why is it not an equally contestable question as to how much is too much or too little in the matter of identity.

      The images are simple, stereotypical/archetypal, maybe this is intentional as such graphic images have to communicate directly. He also includes some anti/racist poetry which has some emotion in parts. He is obviously using this to challenge prejudice and racism so it is serving a wider social purpose as well as maybe that of expressing himself.

      Identity is a fascinating subject to some. On the surface of things it seems obvious that there are differing groups each with differing codes of dress, beliefs, habits, values, art forms etc. But what is it exactly and why should anybody restrict it. Myself I still struggle to come up with an exact definition of what identity is. The who am I question seems a bit illusive sometimes.

      Please someone tell me what identity is.

    17. Jagdeep — on 5th March, 2007 at 8:25 pm  

      Please someone tell me what identity is.

      Let me work out who or what I am first, and then I’ll tell you.

    18. Jagdeep — on 5th March, 2007 at 9:11 pm  

      I’m watching Hundal on 18 Doughnut Street. He still looks like a Mexican. They spell his name ‘Sonny Hondal’

      I think Iain Dale really like Sunny. He teased him at the start about being very mischievious.

    19. Jagdeep — on 5th March, 2007 at 9:30 pm  

      They’re going to talk about blogs for one hour. It’s all very serious. A bunch of bloggers talking about the importance of blogs. Hundal is holding his own against the other titans, making a few wisecracks and good points.

    20. sonia — on 5th March, 2007 at 9:53 pm  

      aargh i can’t see anything!

    21. Leon — on 5th March, 2007 at 10:26 pm  

      Didn’t even watch it, 18DS has lost a lot it’s interest for me, it’s boring. Occasionally they get interesting guests on or a good mix of folk on the sofa but more and more my reaction is just one big Meh…

    22. Jagdeep — on 5th March, 2007 at 10:32 pm  

      One of the other guests looked like a fan of Lord of the Rings

    23. David T — on 5th March, 2007 at 11:22 pm  

      That’s the Tory Party for you. The Hordes of Mordor.

      Sunny has an engaging, confident, no-nonsense sttyle. He’s not Sir Robin Day, thank god.

      And as for Chaz Singh. Well, I’m not too ashamed to say that it made my heart well with pride. I love my wife, son and dog. I cherish my friends and my close and extended family. I like that we communicate with each other here, because we like each other’s company, and because we’re hungry for each others’ ideas. We’re a community: and I’d like to think that, if it weren’t too much trouble, we’d look out for each other. I also like the architecture of this country, the shape of London, the wind whistling through my front door, watching the clouds blowing over the park through my bedroom window, punctated by the occasional barks of dogs. I like playing my guitar and concertina, and listening to old sailors singing wheezeily to their amateurishly pumped melodeons. I like the Smiths and the Clash. I like our country’s arts, its cultural institutions, the the technology which keeps it running, the history: the thought of the many bad things that we are capable of doing to hurt our fellows, and the many more acts of kindnesss, genius and generousity that bind us together. I feel at home in a crown which is culturally mixed. For a start, I feel relaxed because I don’t have anything in particular to aspire to, and free, thereby. I like our adaptability and I like our steadfastness.

      I wish there was a little more affection. But I put that down to the misanthropy and understatement which are our Island traits.

    24. Jagdeep — on 5th March, 2007 at 11:41 pm  

      Bloody hell David T, have been drinking or something? I could hear Vaughn Williams rising in volume in the background as I read your emotional post.

      Buy Daljit Nagra’s new collection of poetry you’ll love his re-write of Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach.

    25. Sunny — on 5th March, 2007 at 11:42 pm  

      ha ha!

    26. Jagdeep — on 5th March, 2007 at 11:55 pm  

      This is the dude — he’s a Punjabi guy from London getting good reviews for his first book of poetry which is partly about being Sikh and Indian and British and English and all that kind of sort of thing.

      Look we have coming to Dover

      It’s about Punjabi immigrants when they first land in England, it’s inspired by Dover Beach.

    27. Leon — on 6th March, 2007 at 12:13 am  

      Dave T secretly a hippy? All those pro war hard ons finally making him feel guilty so he must reach out to his fellow countrymen? Or some such bollox.

    28. Sunny — on 6th March, 2007 at 12:47 am  

      Sunny has an engaging, confident, no-nonsense sttyle. He’s not Sir Robin Day, thank god.

      I should get you to do my PR David!

    29. Refresh — on 6th March, 2007 at 12:57 am  

      A buffoon of some order I would say!

    30. David T — on 6th March, 2007 at 8:00 am  

      ho ho. Nuffink wrong with a bit of passion!

      I’ll check out the poet.

    31. Sid — on 6th March, 2007 at 8:32 am  

      I’ll check out the poet.

      Judging from the sickly sweet post of #23, that’ll probably be the dross of John Betjeman.

      The thing is, if a white guy dressed up in King Arthur regalia and started camping it up with a codpiece and a St George flag, we would all find it exceedingly creepy.

      When a brown guy does it, our hearts well with pride??!

      No thanks.

    32. Bert Preast — on 6th March, 2007 at 9:41 am  

      What David T said.

      Hang on, who are we kidding? Is there any man here would pass up the chance to sling on some chainmail and gauntlets then stand on castles waving a sword about? Let’s face it, it’s great.

    33. G. Tingey — on 6th March, 2007 at 10:05 am  

      Looks like a very profitable publicity stunt to me - he can buy me a beer any time!

      Good luck to him …

    34. Sid Love — on 6th March, 2007 at 10:35 am  

      Sardarji in Chainmail (sung to the tune of Bengali in Platforms)

      Sardarji, Sardarji
      Sardarji, Sardarji
      No no no
      He does not want to depress you
      Oh no no no no no
      He only wants to impress you
      Oh..

      Sardarji in chainmail
      He only wants to embrace your culture
      And to be your friend forever
      Forever

      Sardarji, Sardarji
      Sardarji, Sardarji
      Oh, shelve your western plans
      And understand
      That life is hard enough when you belong here

      A silver-studded rim that glistens
      And an ankle-star that … blinds me
      A lemon sole so very high
      Which only reminds me; to tell you
      Break the news gently
      Break the news to him gently
      Shelve your plans; shelve your plans, shelve them

    35. sonia — on 6th March, 2007 at 10:54 am  

      yeah clever bloke

    36. Leon — on 6th March, 2007 at 11:28 am  

      The thing is, if a white guy dressed up in King Arthur regalia and started camping it up with a codpiece and a St George flag, we would all find it exceedingly creepy.

      When a brown guy does it, our hearts well with pride??!

      Heh, very true.

    37. Kulvinder — on 6th March, 2007 at 12:52 pm  

      When a brown guy does it, our hearts well with pride??!

      Its a more accurate reflection of of St.George innit.

    38. Jagdeep — on 6th March, 2007 at 1:13 pm  

      When a brown guy does it, our hearts well with pride??!

      Ummm, whose hearts are swelling with pride? I think you kind of misunderstand. I don’t think anyone is claiming he’s a superhero or something, the new Monty Panesar. Unless David T’s panegyric which was dislodged by Chaz has caused you indigestion, in which case, I understand.

      And the Morrisey lyric is bollocks, by the way. What is he singing to the Bengali kid, don’t embrace platforms and English youth culture because you’ll be dissapointed? And that’s your advice to everyone else? Bollocks to that!

    39. Sid Love — on 6th March, 2007 at 2:51 pm  

      “platforms” as in platform soles. and the song is directed at the english not the bengali. that’s my reading of it anyway.

    40. David T — on 6th March, 2007 at 6:24 pm  

      Is it? I think he’s just basically a bit racist. The classic explanation is that Morrissey is “identifying with the outsider” etc.

      No he’s not. He’s taking the piss. Life is hard enough when you belong here because, in the view of the song, you *don’t* belong here.

      Still, it is only one song, and there are many more good ones. It is hardly Clapton eulogising Powell.

      Anyhow…

      When a brown guy does it, our hearts well with pride??!

      Naah, you’re underestimating my sentimental nationalism. I have a fondness for:

      - English Civil War Re-enactment societies (not that I’d get involved in one, mind)
      - Folk music
      - Re-runs of Time Team on the Discovery Channel
      - Billy Bragg

      … all that sort of stuff.

      Yeah, it is nice that the guy who is doing it is sikh. He can probably get away with it without surrendering completely to irremediable naffness, for that reason.

      I like it in the same way that I like somebody like Bishi

      http://www.bishi.co.uk/

      http://www.myspace.com/bishimusic

      I mean, I like that she works in both indian and english folk styles, and what doing that represents, sure.

      But basically I just like the music, you know

    41. El Cid — on 6th March, 2007 at 8:07 pm  

      Is Barcelona’s Rafael Marquez a sikh?
      I think we should be told

    42. David T — on 6th March, 2007 at 8:22 pm  

      Is this about football?

    43. Sid — on 6th March, 2007 at 10:10 pm  

      I dunno. I never thought Bengali in Platforms was even remotely racist. In fact, quite the opposite. It did contain the line, ‘life is hard enough when you belong here”. To a zero-generation immigrant, as I am, I found that sweetly consolatory coming from Mozza, himself a sad, alienated man.

      Here is an NME article from 1992 on Moz’s fliratation with racist imagery which is OK.

    44. KB Player — on 6th March, 2007 at 11:19 pm  

      Isn’t this after the Clash of Civilisations match? (Home or away?)

      Shall we say it was a draw?

      And the captains swapped jerseys?

      What would the other jersey look like?

    45. David T — on 6th March, 2007 at 11:27 pm  

      Yeah, I’ve seen that article before. It isn’t a terrible one, although it is usually villified by Moz True Believers.

      I think it is pretty clear that Moz’s preoccupations are not with the politics of the far right, but with the vulnerable machismo of the little boy lost: from James Dean through to the “Davey” of Romper Stomper and the National Front Disco. He’s not an artist who is greatly preoccupied with matters of political philosophy. The only stands he has taken is pedestrian anti-monarchism, misanthropic advocacy of humanity to animals, and dreaming of the decapitation of Mrs Thatsch. No: he’s more a collagist of national and personal culture, who takes bits from here and there - all those lyrics plagiarised and taken on loan - and weaves them into a testament of identity.

      So, yes, there’s an affinity between the man who had Joan of Arc burned with a hearing aid, and the son lost to the promises of the National Front, and the try-to-hard stereotypical Bengali immigrant.

      I think, however, that if you sing a mocking song about a man from Bangladesh who spends so much time trying to impress you, that doesn’t even realise that his very presence is a source of depression, you are - to put it kindly - not an obvious advocate of anti-racism. This isn’t Joe Strummer singing Armagideon Time in a cod Jamaican accent.

      That said, I’ve come across Korean-Americans who call themselves “Tooled up Asian Boy”.

      Morrissey’s response to the controversy about his racism is an integral part of Morrissey mythology. What he didn’t do was engage in disproportionate, or self-serving Jade Goody-esque antics. He simply refused to engage with them. To do so, honestly, would have involved him in swapping a discipline of communicating about those things that really matter to him through the medium of the lyrics of unpopular song, to a conventional discourse of interviews and press releases.

      Wouldn’t that have been terrible?

      Meanwhile, his catalogue filled up with semi-answers: the slightly snide “Asian Rut”, the anti-Occupation of Ireland, “This is Not Your Country”: a song which borrows its title from a line spoken by Hando in Romper Stomper, the National Front Disco, and the football hooligans in We’ll Let You Know, “who will descend on anyone unable to defend themselves”, who sing racist songs which “aren’t supposed to mean a thing”, and who in the end turn out to be no more than wasters, thugs, and failures:

      We may seem cold, or
      We may even be
      The most depressing people you’ve ever known
      At heart, what’s left, we sadly know
      That we are the last truly British people you’ll ever know
      We are the last truly British people you will ever know
      You’ll never never want to know

      And so the decline continues, and we find ourselves in the company of authors afraid of their “born-again athiest, practising troublemaker” subjects, who stumble around with four days of stubble, stanley knives in hand “waiting for the next great wound”, “to make more mistakes, nd to fluff our breaks, and to stuff our faces with cake”.

      It is a depressing vista.

      But at the end of it all, Morrissey still wants to stand by the flag, the child of Irish immigrants, feeling proud, rather than racist or racial. There’s redemptive end in sight for this pessimistic trek across the ruins of a culture.

      And still, he’s touring.

    46. David T — on 6th March, 2007 at 11:44 pm  

      Oh, and we shouldn’t forget the influence on all this of Jake Walters: the former personal assistant and”best friend on the payroll” who drew a swallow on Morrissey’s neck before the great man realised that just wasn’t going to work out.

    47. ZinZin — on 7th March, 2007 at 12:07 am  

      If Morrissey was a racist it would be in the News of the World not the NME.

      End of debate.

    48. Clairwil — on 7th March, 2007 at 12:23 am  

      Well I think Chaz looks very dashing.

    49. Refresh — on 7th March, 2007 at 12:59 am  

      Chaz should be charged with inciting unremitting buffoonery as witnessed on this very thread.

      In other words, who cares?

      And to Morrissey afficionados - what is he and what was he to you?

      I am deeply cynical and suspicious of fans of anything. Sheep!

    50. Sunny — on 7th March, 2007 at 4:25 am  

      Stop being such a wet blanket Refresh. It’s a picture for a gallery. He wants to challenge people’s perceptions. He’s not exactly walking around in that outfit and posing for his mate is he?

    51. Refresh — on 7th March, 2007 at 9:21 am  

      “He wants to challenge people’s perceptions. He’s not exactly walking around in that outfit and posing for his mate is he?”

      There are plenty of ordinary sikhs who go round challenging people’s perceptions without the fanfare. As there are muslims and any other grouping you’d care to name. I recall the time you sneered at that camp asian lad dressed head-to-toe in burberry. I think he probably challenged perceptions much better.

      What’s more Chaz is probably reinforcing the perception that ‘comer-inners’ need in some way to show their loyalty to the ‘adoptive country’. That is a dangerous path that ’state patriotism’ demands you take.

    52. Amrit — on 7th March, 2007 at 11:29 am  

      ‘I love my wife, son and dog.’

      *wipes tear from eye*

    53. Kulvinder — on 7th March, 2007 at 12:50 pm  

      In other words, who cares?

      You. Evidently.

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