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Desmond Tutu featured on cover of 2023 B.C. anti-racism calendar

Desmond Tutu by Jarnail Singh
The antiracism calendar features a painting of Desmond Tutu Desmond Tutu by Surrey artist Jarnail Singh.

Surrey artist Jarnail Singh has achieved widespread recognition for his colourful paintings and murals featuring people of Punjab.

But for the 2023 antiracism calendar, he created a portrait of an altogether different subject—South African bishop and anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu

Every year, Radical Desi works with various partners to create the anti-racism calendar. It highlights important dates in the history of the fight against oppression in B.C., Canada, and around the world.

This year, Mehad Punjab Di, Channel Punjabi, I.T. Media, Rim Jhim, Spice Radio 1200 AM, and People’s Voice participated.

They will unveil the calendar at noon on Saturday (December 10) at Singh’s gallery, Jarnail Arts, at 106–12882 85 Avenue Surrey. The event coincides with Human Rights Day.

Singh was born in the district of Ferozpur in Punjab in 1956. Since moving to Canada in 2000, he’s put on many exhibitions. That included a well-regarded series of paintings about the voyage of the Komagata Maru in 1914. After travelling all the way from India, the Canadian government forced it to leave Vancouver’s harbour with more than 350 of the original passengers.

In 2008, the City of Surrey granted a lifetime achievement award to Singh.

anti-racism calendar

Tutu was a beacon of reconciliation

A cofounder of Radical Desi, Gurpreet Singh, told Pancouver that this isn’t Singh’s first image on the annual calendar. The artist also painted the 2020 calendar image commemorating the 500th anniversary of Guru Nanak’s founding of the Sikh faith.

The 2023 calendar describes Tutu as “a towering anti-apartheid activist and leader who passed away, leaving behind a rich legacy of struggles against anti-racism oppression anywhere in the world”.

Gurpreet Singh praised Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, for his advocacy for people enduring racism and oppression no matter where they live.

This is reflected in Tutu’s famous statement: “In a situation of oppression, you cannot be neutral.”

Moreover, Tutu also stood as a beacon of reconciliation until his death nearly a year ago.

“We have to move on by taking everybody along,” Gurpreet Singh said. “In that sense, Desmond Tutu also gives us a lot of hope.”

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.