Photographer-writer duo Saji Kaur Sahota and Jessie Kaur Lehail have started a photo series called ‘The Kaur Project.’ The founders of the project say that they aim to celebrate a common heritage, while at the same time celebrating their diversity. The Kaur surname is one that Sikh followers of Guru Gobind Singh can adopt. Sikhs can drop their last name and utilise a collective name that is free from the trappings of class, caste and patriarchy.
However, the founders say that the stories of Kaur women have always been told in relation to their male counterparts. Their contributions as thinkers, poets and warriors have not been fully taken into consideration.
The founders point to the new generation of Kaurs that have found ways to reflect their identities. They are entrepreneurs, doctors, homemakers, lawyers and doctors, and their stories should be heard and celebrated, say Sahota and Lehail.
The founders choose Kaurs arbitrarily. They do a photo shoot and an interview with each woman over the phone, and have featured over 60 women on the site. The two mains questions they are asked are “how do you identify yourself as a Kaur” and “what has your journey been so far.”
“It’s a learning opportunity for the mainstream about Sikhism and Sikh women. But also for Sikh women to learn about themselves,” Lehail and Sahota tell Huffington Post.
Here are some of the stories of Kaur women as featured on the Kaur Project.
“Simply by being a girl however, I was placed in a weaker status in Punjabi culture. It was clearly apparent that I was thought of as the weaker gender and constantly told, “girls don’t do this or that etc.”
“My role as a Kaur…through my medical practice and hobbies is to help other women find their strength, externally and internally.”
Karen Kaur suffered physical and emotional abuse for years. She removed herself and her son from the situation and says that her goal is now to raise him under a roof where there’s equality, honesty, loyalty, love and respect.
“For me, healing is about collecting as many pieces as possible. It’s finding words for what I am seeing and feeling – even when it sounds crazy. It’s daring to speak my truth until it makes sense. ”