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New banners in Punjabi Market created by artists Jessie Sohpaul and Chase Gray

Banners photo by Jessie Sohpaul
Banners went up in the Punjabi Market during Sikh Heritage Month. Photos by Jessie Sohpaul/Twitter.

Artists of South Asian and Indigenous ancestry have teamed up to design new banners attached to poles in Vancouver’s Punjabi Market. Jessie Sohpaul, who’s of Punjabi heritage, tweeted that the Phulkari and asterisk patterns are “a nod do the history of fabric and clothing stores in the market”.

At its peak, the neighbourhood was home to more than 300 shops, including two dozen jewellery stores. Phulkari is folk embroidery common in Punjab, incorporating floral work as well as geometric designs.

“The script reads ‘Punjabi Bazaar’ and it takes us back to our roots and literally puts our language at the front of the market,” Sohpaul added.

Chase Gray’s work honours his Musqueam and Tsimshian heritage.

“Salmon sustain life on these lands,” Sohpaul declared in another tweet. “While salmon are the life of the water, eagles are known as rulers of the sky, symbolizing strength, wisdom knowledge, protection, and courage.”

Sohpaul is creative director of the Punjabi Market Collective, which is a group of artists, students, entrepreneurs and community advocates. It has been revitalizing the historic Punjabi Market along Main Street from East 48th to East 51st Avenue with murals and other projects.

Kohinoor, where are you?
Jessie Sohpaul’s Kohinoor, where are you? can be seen in an alley behind 6560 Main Street.

Punjabi Market dates back to 1970

This isn’t the first time that the collective has commissioned work by Indigenous artists. Musqueam artist Diamond Point’s Interconnected is on the rear of the RBC building at 6509 Main Street. Sohpaul created another of the murals, Kohinoor, where are you?, which is on the wall behind 6570 Main Street.

Earlier this year, Sohpaul illustrated one of the lanterns at Granville Island as part of LunarFest Vancouver celebrations.

Meanwhile, Gray is a nonbinary queer artist. He traces his Musqueam and Tsimshian ancestry to his mother’s side. His father is a European settler of unknown origin.

Gray, who mainly uses the pronouns he and him, likes spreading joy with his art. He often does this through the use of bright colours, nostalgia, and queer representation. His website URL is GaySalishart.com.

According to the Punjabi Market Collective website, the origins of the Punjabi Market go back to 1970 when Sucha Singh Claire opened Shaan Saari’s. He was inspired by the thriving Punjabi district in Southall, which is a large suburb in West London, England.

In 1973, the region’s first Himalaya Restaurant opened on Main Street. It continues to be operated by members of the Pabla family, who later opened a second Himalaya in Richmond.

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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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The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

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The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

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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.