Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Karanjee Singh Gaba Afghan Sikh: From Refugee to Film Making to Modelling

                              Karanjee Singh Gaba

I had my first show in 2016 at London Fashion Week. When my dad arrived at the location at Somerset House, and saw me playing the tabla with models around me, he felt proud.

I was representing not just the Asian culture, not just Sikhism but my heritage too. I am humbled and proud to be an Afghan Sikh and to have a platform where I can elevate my culture and religion.

My parents are from Afghanistan. Like many people, the war forced us out of our country and we moved to the UK in 2007 when I was eight-years-old. It was all very different to what I was used to do. It was like I was living in two worlds and had no idea how I would adjust. I had to learn a new language, a new way of living, new cultures but I knew it was for the best.

My time at primary school was probably the worst and best experience because it took me a while to settle. Language was a barrier but I was relieved when I learned everyone liked me or were fascinated by me because they had never met a Sikh before.

I started my career as a filmmaker with Pritpal Singh. He is known for making the film 'Mission Afghanistan'. In 2012, when I was only fourteen-years-old he took me to the Langar seva at the London Olympics. He saw something in me and trusted me with a camera, which he handed me to film.

                          'Refugee Crisis' in Belgium

That’s when my passion for film-making began and I made a film about the 'Refugee Crisis' in Belgium, which was featured on Sikh Channel. Since then, I have been working on projects and have independently made my own films including 'Hindko' and 'Journey to Pakistan'. My aim to attain a university degree in Film has been to visually portray subjects and issues which have never been explored. I want to educate and inform people about under-served and underrepresented communities in the UK.

In addition to studying, I do modelling to represent Sikhism. My intention as an Afghan Sikh is to bring light and raise awareness to the issues Sikhs are facing, after all, they’re one of the most persecuted minorities in Afghanistan. I also want to inform the world about our faith and our heritage.

I have been widely appreciated as a one of the first Afghan Sikh models. One of my first campaigns was for an international brand Ader Error. I was the first Sikh model they hired and published in countries like South Korea which really fascinated their audience.

The fashion industry is really starting to celebrate the fact that I’m a Sikh and I regularly get scouted for high profile shoots (GQ India, Vogue Runway, Milk Magazine, Man About Town, Schön, etc.)

With the modeling industry come challenges and requirements. I was once asked to shave my beard for a shoot, which I refused. I wanted to reflect my true identity and my appearance is crucial in showing that. The director of the shoot was really blown-away by my decision and the fact that I stood up for who I was. To my surprise, he decided to have me in the catwalk. For me fashion is all about diversity and my aim to reinvent Sikhism through modeling.




Dr. Gurdeep Kaur
Associate Professor
Sri Guru Nanak Dev Khalsa College
University of Delhi

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