New Komagata Maru exhibition

What can you do to help stop racism? You can start with learning about the racism in our Canada’s pat. The story of  Komagata Maru is a great place to start.

Komagata Maru was a Japanese steamship that transported 376 South Asian passengers to Vancouver in 1914. They were denied entry into Canada under the Continuous Journey Act, a racially motivated government policy. This sparked a two-month standoff between the would-be immigrants and government officials. The ship was ultimately turned away, and the event had far-reaching consequences.

The South Asian Studies Institute is launching a permanent outdoor exhibition called Komagata Maru: Discrimination Meets Determination on April 14 at the Sikh Heritage Museum, National Historic Site Gur Sikh Temple in Abbotsford. The exhibition pays homage to the historic 1914 events.  This exhibition is an adaptation of Komagata Maru: Challenging Injustice, an exhibition created by the VMM in 2014.

Virtual launch with South Asian Studies Institute

The South Asian Studies Institute is marking the launch of this new exhibition with a free virtual event. Komagata Maru: Challenging Injustice—Conversations for Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow will be held on Zoom on April 14 at 4:00 pm.  The family-friendly virtual launch will feature reflections by descendants of the passengers of the Komagata Maru. The program will include poetry and messages of activism and vigilance against ongoing racism. The presenters will commemorate the past by committing to a better future and making a  call toward building community solidarity with  Indigenous rights holders.

VMM Virtual Event

The Vancouver Maritime Museum is hosting a companion event on April 15 at 7:00 pm. We have invited Dr. Renisa Mawani to give a presentation called From Migrants to Revolutionaries: Reflections on the Komagata Maru’s 1914 Voyage.

woman with dark hairMawani will tell the story of the 1914 passage of Komagata Maru. Drawing from the testimony and recollections of passengers, she’ll explore how the ship’s transpacific voyage to Vancouver created opportunities for solidarities, alliances and animosities between the Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus on board.

She will also look at how reports of inter-faith camaraderie circulated among colonial officials in London, Hong Kong, Vancouver and Calcutta affected events. In their speculations, colonial and imperial authorities recast the migrant passengers as revolutionaries. This transformation was legally sanctioned by the Ingress into India Ordinance.

The ordinance, which was signed by the Indian colonial government in anticipation of the ship’s arrival, granted unprecedented powers to local authorities to arrest and detain anyone arriving from abroad. The ordinance emerged from the sea but extended inland to interior towns and villages. It had significant consequences for not only the Komagata Maru passengers but also thousands of men and women suspected of anticolonial activities in Punjab, Calcutta, Madras and Rangoon.

This talk is excerpted from a chapter Mawani wrote for the book Viapolitics: Borders, Migration, and the Power of Locomotion (Duke University Press), which will be released in December.

Dr. Renisa Mawani is a professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia, located on the unceded territories of the Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) peoples. She works in the fields of critical theory and colonial legal history and has published widely on law, colonialism, and legal geography.

Both talks are free, but registration is required.


The photo on the right in this image is by Canadian Photo Company, courtesy of Vancouver Public Library, 129