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Collecting the Sikh Empire with Davinder Toor

Today I’m speaking to Davinder Toor, one of the foremost collectors of Sikh art and objects in the world today. Over the last twenty years, he has gradually acquired what is widely reputed to be one of the finest collections of Sikh paintings, arms and armour, jewellery, documents as well as other objects and works of art. Many of these are included in a catalogue he wrote called In Pursuit of Empire that is published by Kashi House, and they were also displayed in a recent exhibition presented by the UK Punjab Heritage Association at the Brunei Gallery at SOAS called Empire of the Sikhs. You can also see his collection on the Toor Collection website and Instagram.

For me, the key points in this episode are the importance of mentorship and also that there are so many ways we can approach, work with and share heritage and collections.

For Davinder, this journey started with the support and encouragement of mentors Amandeep Madra and Parmjit Singh. I interview Amandeep in the previous episode. Davinder has been able to use his knowledge, networks and resources to acquire works of art that mean so much to him and, just as importantly, share them as widely as possible through talks, exhibitions and online resources which he is developing. In this way, he is also inspiring another generation of Sikh and Punjabi people, as well as many others, to engage with their wide-ranging heritage.

I think it also shows how important it is for museums and other cultural institutions to be open, accessible and good partners – and this point builds on the conversations I had with Kayte McSweeney and Abira Hussein in Episodes 21 + 22 of The Wonder House.

Follow Davinder on Instagram @Davinder.S.Toor

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