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Turban portraits on show this month in Coquitlam

For civil engineer Kiranjot Kaur, the turban is a sculptural piece that’s part of the wearer’s identity and can stand as a portrait on its own.

A turban is usually seen as a fabric headdress that honours a region and religion.

But for civil engineer Kiranjot Kaur, the turban is a sculptural piece that’s part of the wearer’s identity and can stand as a portrait on its own.

“They’re very individual,” said the Surrey resident who is a PhD candidate at UBC. “The way the head is shaped and the way they’re wrapped can say a lot about a person.”

“It’s a labour of love.”

However, instead of illustrating them with their wearer, the self-taught artist used her engineer’s eye to analyze turbans — often referred to as dastaars, pagaries and damallay — and to “observe and celebrate their beauty alone,” she told the Tri-City News last week.

On Friday, Kaur will be at Place des Arts in Coquitlam for the facility’s exhibit openings that includes 28 turbans — in paintings, drawings, illustrations and sculptures — in a show titled Sovereign Elevations; the display was previously at the Silk Purse Arts Centre in West Vancouver.

Kaur got the idea for her turban series after hearing a lecture from the Sikh Research Institute about sovereignty. Once only used by royalty and the upper class in India, the turban became part of a movement to show that the headdresses could also be worn by Sikh Gurus and followers — thus, elevating their campaign for equal rights.

Today, the turbans not only symbolize equality, honour, self-respect, courage, spirituality and piety but also offer a sense of style with their shapes, sizes and colours.

Kaur, who recruited her friends and family for the portraits, said she’s inspired by the prints and floral patterns being showcased on the turbans of younger people as well as by federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who demonstrates on social media how wraps his turban and unravels his long hair underneath.

Kaur said the word “elevation” also applies to the way that engineers draw, as a two-dimensional object represents something that’s 3D. “I feel like with the turbans, the person is immediately recognizable — even if their face isn’t there — because they’re so unique,” she said.

You can meet Kiranjot Kaur at Place des Arts (1120 Brunette Ave., Coquitlam) on Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. for the opening reception of the three exhibits: Sovereign Elevations, DooChi and Creative Connections. For more details, visit



Learn how to play the piano, take part in a crafting activity and try some dance moves at Place des Arts’ open house, happening from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Coquitlam facility (1120 Brunette Ave.). 

Faculty and staff will also be on hand during the open house, and attendees can get up to $10 off a registration fee if they sign up for a session on the day. 

Raffle prizes will be awarded. To visit, register for one of three time slots: 1 p.m., 2:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. via

Masks are mandatory to enter the building. Visit