Senior Minister of State for Health, and Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr Balaji Sadasivan, launched the photographic exhibition, “Nectarpool: Portraits of Love and Longing in Amritsar”, at the National Library on 15 April 2006, aimed at fostering inter-community understanding, engagement and harmony.

The photographic journey into the Golden Temple in India is a joint effort by a free lance photographer, Dr Mandeep Singh, and Young Sikh Association (Singapore). The almost month-long exhibition focuses on the themes of peace, community and kinship – contemporary issues for the public to contemplate in times of fragmentation and international unrest. Seen through the nostalgic lense of an immigrant back home on a visit, the Temple acquires an aura of misty introspection, a quietude emanating from its marble walls and the all too palpable love of a people drawn to it in a vast, unending tide.

In his address, Dr Balaji praised the exhibition as a fine example of efforts by our community for our community, to promote inter-community engagement. He said: “We have built a harmonious multi-racial, multi-religious and, above all, a multi-cultural society. Having said that, we, as a nation, cannot take this for granted. We need to press on with efforts to strengthen rapport and understanding among the different ethnic groups.” He commended the group of multi-racial volunteers who helped to put together the exhibition, and added that such community engagement initiatives are important in building bonds and bridges, and creating greater understanding and awareness among the different ethnic groups in Singapore.

Dr Balaji also expressed hopes that the exhibition will inspire young Singaporeans to express their heritage in creative ways and to make their presence palpable in public places, and encourage young and budding Singaporeans to showcase their talents and abilities in public.

Photographer Mandeep elaborated on the rationale for this first solo exhibition. “We live in turbulent times, where international unrest and tension dominate media pages. I believe that unity begins with understanding, and hope that these photographs will inspire the public to want to learn more about the Sikh community and other ethnic groups.”

He said: “The Sikhs, although a small ethnic group, have a very rich cultural heritage. I want to do something that will promote greater awareness of this community. I hope this will spark off efforts from other groups to come forward and work towards greater mutual understanding of their culture.” Dr Singh hopes that this project will also encourage youths to energise the local arts scene by drawing from their diverse backgrounds to express their heritage in creative ways – “to use their culture as capital”.

“Nectarpool” also commemorates the Sikh New Year, Vaisakhi, which fell on 14 April 2006. The exhibition consists of 33 black and white, and colour photographs. It is open from 15 April to 10 May 2006 at the National Library (100 Victoria Street, Level 9 Promenade) from 10.00am to 9.00pm daily. Thereafter, there are plans to take the exhibition to regional libraries, along with educational talks and group discussions in the community.

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