Taike-Sye’yə: A Mural Remembering the Komagata Maru Episode @ Harry Stevens Federal Building
South Asian & Indigenous Cultural Redress Through Public Art
Musqueam artists Alicia Point and Cyler Sparrow-Point and South-Asian Canadian artists Keerat Kaur, Sunroop Kaur, and Sandeep Johal and historian Naveen Girn have produced a collaborative site-specific mural named “Taike-Sye’yə.” This mural centers the commemoration of the Komagata Maru Episode that occurred in 1914 in the Burrard Inlet where 368 predominantly Sikh passengers were denied entrance to Canada based on the newly created "Continuous Passage Law" designed to block immigration of racialized people into Canada. Specifically, the artwork depicts oral accounts by both South Asian and Musqueam community members that have recently surfaced that suggest Indigenous people assisted the passengers with food and supplies during their two-month-long period of deprivation, which was used by Vancouver authorities as a means to drive them away. This mural is inspired by that possibility.
The collaborative mural transforms 4,000 square feet of the exterior wall of the Harry Stevens Federal Building at 125 East 10th Avenue (Vancouver) into a highly visible public site of remembrance and site for sparking dialogue regarding promotion of cultural redress with Indigenous and South Asian communities. Note: The Harry Stevens, the building’s namesake, was a central governmental figure in the denial of the passenger's entry into Canada during the Komagata Maru Episode.
What does “Taike-Sye’yə” mean?
The mural’s title is a combination of a Punjabi word (Taike) and the Musqueam word (Sye’yə) in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓. The Punjabi word is related to the word: 'taiyya' which denotes a kin relationship, a father's eldest brother. The word 'taike' is derived from this and has a closer affinity to the English word 'cousin'. It is very common in Punjabi, and more broadly in South Asian, contexts to render personal relationships in familial terms: to describe a relationship through the use of family terms. The Punjabi word originated in shared working environments and shared experiences between South Asians and Indigenous Nation's in BC - and specifically Vancouver. Although there are both positive and negative connotations of the word ‘Taike’ that reflect the complex relationship between Punjabis and Indigenous people in BC and the conflicts that sometimes emerged between them as Punjabis came as settlers to the region, the word 'Taike' also holds the possibility of a new understanding of the relationship between South Asians and Indigenous People. That is the spirit of the use of this term in this project.
Look for the word Taike, on one of the canoes. Sye’yə, is a hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ word for ‘friend’. Sye’yə was chosen by Alicia Point in collaboration with Larry Grant, her elder from Musqueam as a word that matches well with Taike, and represents the friendship that has formed through experiences depicted in this mural. Very Special thanks Larry Grant, and Sadhu Binning Ph.D for sharing their knowledge on these words and their origins.
On a project like this there are many to thank! Special thanks to everyone who contributed their time and knowledge! Special mentions to: Manjot Bains, Sirish Rao, and Nadeem Parmar.
Also big thanks to the organizations who financially supported this project! Canadian Heritage, BC Heritage Society, City of Vancouver Cultural Grants Program, Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Society, Brook Pooni and Vancity Credit Union.
Project created in partnership with Naveen Girn and support from the Indian Summer Festival. Vancouver Mural Festival's Community Projects are generously supported by YVR.
Here are some in progress shots!