Celebrating Ranbir Kaur- Life in Colour

Ranbir Kaur’s preview of her very own exhibition amplified her life time achievement and in particular her 30 years in this country as an artist.

Ranbir Kaur’s journey began as a child and her artistic gift was noticed early on,   ”My mother would say, your written words are like pearls sewn together’’.  I took great length to ensure that my handwriting was perfectly curved in those days and I just wanted to get it right, I was inspired by shapes and the symmetrical drawings. As a child, I would sit on my dad’s tummy, drawing perfect circles with my finger.   Growing up, her interest in art developed into unquestionable passion to study at a higher level which resulted in acquiring BSc in Arts in University of Uganda with Rangoli as subject specialism.

Ranbir’s dreams of working as an artist in East Africa abruptly ended when a different type of politics came into play.  In early August 1972, the President of UgandaIdi Amin, ordered the expulsion of his country’s South Asian minority, giving them days to leave the country.   ‘’I remember, when soldiers barged in our house, one pointed the rifle and ordered us to leave, I reached out to pick up my doll that I had created. The soldier motioned with a gun, that meant two things either leave or die.  I looked at my father and he fearing for our safely murmured, ‘’leave the doll, I will buy you many more’’.  We left, not taking a single one of our belongings with us.   We left our homeland for India that   I knew very little about, despite being born there, I came to East Africa, 22 days old.

With my qualifications, skills and the specialism in Rangoli art, my talent was quickly recognised and I started to teach Pedagogy of Art at The Guru Nanak School in Delhi.  For me, art means discipline; the teaching helped to reinforce it further. ‘’you see that is the reason, I am never late for anything’’, Ranbir muses. I bore 2 beautiful   daughters and it was my personal circumstances that led me to this country 30 years ago.   My third daughter was born here in England.

Back in India, my parents were always a pillar of support for me, I came here and got noticed by local schools and education authorities, soon I became a sought after artist.  In the earlier days, I was nervous, not knowing the decision makers or the right people.  At that time, it were people like Sudha Daniels (Art Specialist) and Sarjit Singh, the later she fondly calls ‘uncle ji’.  Ranbir adjusted to raising her young children, doing school runs and working long hours.  ‘’Without uncle ji, all the success would not have been possible, he was there, every step of the way’’.  Sarjit Singh  was a veteran educator and a literary  artist himself.  Incidentally, both men, Ranbir’s father and Sarjit Singh  were friends in  East Africa.   ‘’Uncle ji was my angel sent by God to help guide me’’. He was a great influence on my children (now a medical doctor, Police Inspector and Public Relations Officer, respectively)”. Notably, the great uncle passed away in 2015 leaving his own legacy of strength and valour.

On the eve of opening of the exhibition to the public, Ranbir included her uncle’s memory in her speech.  She made history not just as an artist but as a gentle yet steely woman who will continue to inspire generation to come.    She ended on the note, ‘’my job is done’’, yes, it is done, but the job of those who are yet to learn of her work be they are academicians, artists, politicians, policy makers and/or the general public or mainstream media people is yet to be done.   Ranbir’s works should be publicised in national newspapers such as The Observer and The Guardian as well as broadcast media that edify or demonstrate an interest in genuine art and creativity.

Tellingly, the display of her life time work seduced the audiences no end.   It was though, the captivating expressions that spoke largely and not the words.  Quiet voices were heard echoing the praises of Ranbir’s   work as people mustered through the exhibition hall. The faces said everything that words alone were not enough to describe her work.   There were  look of awestruck, swooned gazes, quiet contemplations, consternation expressions, captivating gazes, glinting eyes and absorbing gazes. As if these weren’t enough, it seemed that the  countless circling of the exhibition spaces, suddenly and mysteriously created a pilgrimage or mecca- type atmosphere for viewers and other wider audiences from all walks of life. Indeed, the absorption of this multidimensional art phenomenon was truly historic for a city renowned for its port, trading and salt.

Ranbir’s unique work in the textile art genre can be seen at the Sunderland Museum:  https://www.sunderlandbid.co.uk/events/life-colour-ranbir-kaur  

The exhibition will be installed at the Wednesbury museum in Sandwell, West Midlands next year.

The author of this report Harminder Kaur Bhogal is  Co-founder, Strategy and Operational Manager of Community Education Academy of Leadership (CEAL) (www.ceal.org.uk) 

                                              Ranbir Kaur’s ‘pillar of strength’ her uncle, the late Sarjit Singh Myrrpurey MBA 

The Right Worshipful the Mayor of the City of Sunderland, Lynda Scanlan with Ranbir Kaur marking the official opening of the exhibition.

Ranbir Kaur with the exhibition curator Esen Kaya on (left) Padma Rao Director of Sangini and facilitator of the exhibition on the (right). 



Photographs of the exhibition opening were taken by  Graham  Tranter,  who runs Five12Design aims to help organisations achieve professional brand and identity at highly  competitive prices. graham@five12design.co.uk www.five12design.co.uk