Harjit Kaur Sidhu Memorial Program

The Harjit Kaur Sidhu Memorial Program celebrates the rich life of Punjabi language and culture and its importance in BC, in memory of a woman who shared such passions. Our goal is to call attention to important new scholarship on Punjabi language and culture and bring it to our students and the broader Vancouver area audience; encourage and recognize achievements in Punjabi language cultural production; and honor students for their work in learning and using the Punjabi language.

The program was established in loving memory of Harjit Kaur Sidhu (nee Gill), devoted wife, mother, and strong advocate for education, Punjabi culture and language, and women’s issues. Every year, the program features a keynote address by a distinguished scholar, awards for local writers and student-contest winners, and student performances. In alternating years, the book/writer award either honors a BC-based Punjabi-language writer with a
“lifetime achievement award,”or a “best book” published in recent years by a writer from the region.

The 7th Annual Celebration of Punjabi, 2015


Thursday 5 March 2015
6-7:30 p.m. – Main Presentation
7:45-9:30 p.m. – Student performances and awards
Dorothy Somerset Studios Theatre
6361 University Boulevard
University of British Columbia

Free with the generous support of the Sidhu family. Presented in partnership with the Hari Sharma Foundation/Gursharan Singh Memorial Lecture.

The Seventh Annual Celebration of Punjabi
Presented by the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia

At the Juncture of Theatre and Activism

A presentation by Punjabi actor and activist Samuel John, in dialogue with Margo Kane (Cree/Saulteaux), an interdisciplinary performing artist and founder of the Talking Stick Festival for First Nations Performing Arts.

Samuel John uses his theatre not to make money but to spread social awareness among his audiences. His plays deal with the daily experiences of dalits, small farmers and other marginalized people of Punjab, dealing with caste discrimination, the boycott of dalits in villages of Punjab, and the suicides of indebted small farmers. Mr. John has also appeared in three Punjabi films - Mitti, Aatoo Khoji and Anneh Ghore Da Daan (Alms for a Blind Horse). The last film won multiple awards at the 59th National Film Awards in India.

samuel john event_final_einvite

This program has been established in loving memory of Harjit Kaur Sidhu (nee Gill), devoted wife, mother, and strong advocate for education, Punjabi culture and language, and women’s issues. Student essay contest winners and the winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award for a BC-based Punjabi-language writer will be honored at the event.

For more information, see here.

Made possible with the generous support of the Department of Theatre and Film at UBC.

6th Annual Celebration of Punjabi, May 1st, 2014

Komagata Maru ProjectIn 1914, a ship named the “Komagata Maru,” carrying 376 South Asian would-be immigrants to Canada, was turned away from Vancouver and all but a few of its passengers were refused entry. This reflected a larger move against Asian immigration at that time in both popular and official circles. As a part of a major region-wide commemoration program in BC in honour of the centenary of this tragic event, UBC Asian Studies has partnered with the Department of Theatre and Film, Rangmanch Punjabi Theatre (Surrey), Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, and other local partners to produce a multi-faceted program to commemorate and understand more fully the Komagata Maru incident and its ongoing significance in Canada today.

We opened on May 1 with our Annual Event in celebration of Punjabi language, literature and culture in the lower mainland, the Harjit Kaur Sidhu Memorial Program, at which Ali Kazimi’s landmark 2004 film on the incident will be screened. This was followed by our main event, a theatrical production that explores three plays about the Komagata Maru incident written by Canadian playwrights in Punjabi and English on May 3, 4 and 9; the May 3 performance was preceded by a symposium at UBC on the political work of theatre.

An evening with Ali Kazimi and the film Continuous Journey
The Harjit Kaur Sidhu Memorial Program for 2014

with the Department of Asian Studies at UBC
Thursday 1 May, 2014, 7-9:30 p.m.
at Centre Stage, New Surrey City Hall

A conversation with the filmmaker Ali Kazimi and screening of his 2004 documentary, "Continuous Journey", which explores the history of the Komagata Maru ‘incident’  of 1914, when a ship carrying over 350 would-be immigrants from South Asia was turned away from Vancouver.

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An Evening with Ali Kazimi - Photos: 

An Evening with Ali Kazimi - Question & Answer Period:

Presented in partnership with the Komagata Maru Heritage Foundation, Surrey Art Gallery, and Surrey Civic Theatres, and free with the support of the Sidhu family.

For more information, see: http://blogs.ubc.ca/punjabisikhstudies/annual-event-the-harjit-kaur-sidhu-memorial-program/

"Performing the Komagata Maru: Theatre and the Work of Memory" commenced on May 3 with a symposium on theatre as an expression of post-colonial concerns and interventions.

Performing the Post-colonial: The political work of theatre

A symposium associated with the theatrical and scholarly program "Performing the Komagata Maru: Theatre and the Work of Memory." Featured a panel discussion by the playwrights of the plays included in the program (Sadhu Binning, Sukhwant Hundal, Sharon Pollock, Ajmer Rode), talks by Rahul Varma (playwright and founder of Teesri Duniya Theatre or "Third World Theatre"), Nandi Bhatia (University of Western Ontario), and filmmaker and York University Professor Ali Kazimi. We commenced with a key-note address by Professor of English at Panjab University, Chandigarh and well-known translator of modern Punjabi literature, Rana Nayar.

May 3, 2 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Location: St. John's College
Free and open to the public.
Refreshments served during the symposium; light dinner followed. 

Performing the Post-colonial - Photos:

Co-sponsored by St. John's College and supported by a UBC Hampton grant and, for Professor Nayar's visit, the International Research Scholar program at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Study at UBC.

For more information, see: http://blogs.ubc.ca/punjabisikhstudies/komagata-maru-project-2014/may-3-2014-symposium-performing-the-postcolonial/

Finally, our main event took place:

Performing the Komagata Maru: Theatre and the Work of Memory

This performance event explored three plays written about the Komagata Maru incident by Canadian authors: Sadhu Binning and Sukhwant Hundal’s “Sumundari Sher nal Takar” (in Punjabi), Sharon Pollock’s “The Komagata Maru Incident” (in English), and Ajmer Rode’s “Kamagata Maru” (in Punjabi). We developed a single program that integrated sections of the three plays to explore how and why we remember the Komagata Maru, and how the creative arts augment and enhance the traditional historical archive. Students in the Department of Theatre and Film at UBC performed short selections from Pollock’s play; members of the theatre group “Rangmanch Punjabi Theatre” performed selections from the two Punjabi plays. The event was entirely bilingual through the use of Surtitling, and sets for the production were produced by students from Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology in Bangalore in association with artist and Rangmanch Punjabi Theatre member, Raghavendra Rao K.V.

Performing the Komagata Maru - Photos:

Photos by Ali Kazimi, Oliver Mann, and Raghu Rao

Performing the Komagata Maru - Video:

May 3 at 7:30 p.m. and May 4 at 2 p.m.
At UBC's Frederic Wood Theatre


May 9 at 8 p.m.
at Surrey Arts Centre

Tickets at both venues were $10.

Supported by a UBC Hampton grant, Surrey Arts Grant (for the Surrey portion), and a grant from Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

For more information, see: http://blogs.ubc.ca/punjabisikhstudies/komagata-maru-project-2014/may-3-4-performing-the-komagata-maru-at-ubc-and-in-surrey/

These performances were made possible by a UBC Hampton Grant and, for the performance in Surrey, a Surrey Arts Grant and support from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Funds for this student exhibition were provided by the Office of the Vice President for Research and International (UBC).

The Fifth Annual Celebration of Punjabi, March 7th, 2013

Harjit EventRajinder Singh Bedi’s literary and filmic oeuvre captured the conflicting imperatives of a decolonizing society, on the one hand, and customary gender relations in the domestic sphere, on the other. How did the domestic sphere begin to figure as a formidable challenge for radical politics for the generation that came of age in decolonization? What moral shape did those conflicts take in Bedi’s work? To what extent do  India’s contemporary debates around the question of gender reflect the unresolved and muted struggles of an earlier postcolonial moment? What did Bedi’s status as a member of the Sikh minority have to do with his articulation of widely popular treatments of these themes over the course of his career?


view on Flickr >>

2009 Alyssa Ayres, Ph.D. Chicago now with the U.S. State Department, Event Poster
2010 Farina Mir (Michigan), Event Poster
2011 Arvind-pal Singh Mandair (Michigan), Event Poster
2012 Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh (Colby College), Event Poster

The writer/book awards have been granted to:
2009 Gurcharan Rampuri (for lifetime achievement)
2010 Sohan Singh Punni, for his book “kaneḍāde gadarī yodhe,” “Canada’s revolutionary fighters”
2011 Ravinder Ravi (for lifetime achievement)
2012 Dr. Sadhu Singh, for his book “paṃjābī bolī dī virāsat,” “The legacy of the Punjabi language.”

Harjit Kaur Sidhu (nee Gill) was a devoted wife and mother, and a strong advocate for education, Punjabi culture and language, and women’s issues. 

Mrs. Sidhu was born in Amritsar in 1937.  She grew up in what is now Pakistan and resettled with her parents, brothers and sisters in Ludhiana after partition.  She received both an MA and MEd.  She went on to lecture at Sidwa College in 1966 and 1967. She immigrated to Canada with her husband, Balvindar Singh Sidhu, in 1968.  The couple lived in the Yukon for 32 years, during which time Mrs. Sidhu’s passion became early childhood education.  After the birth of her sons Ravindar (1971) and Rajvindar (1972), she worked as a teacher in multiple early childhood settings:  preschool, prekindergarten programs and in kindergarten.

In 2001, Harjit and Balvindar moved to Vancouver where there youngest son was a practicing dentist and where, later, their oldest son started a career at UBC as a surgeon in the Faculty of Medicine.  During her time in Vancouver, Harjit rediscovered her passion for Punjabi language and culture.  She was a strong advocate for Punjabi culture, and for women in Punjabi society.

After two and a half year courageous battle with cancer, she passed away in her home on July 23, 2007.  She is survived by her husband, two sons and their wives, two grandsons and one granddaughter.