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Quirky rooftop sculptures of Punjab in Surrey Art Gallery photo show, a first outside India

Rajesh Vora’s photographs ‘show how art, architecture and everyday life meld together’
A Rajesh Vora photograph featured in his “Everyday Monuments” series, on view at Surrey Art Gallery this spring. (Photo courtesy of artist and PHOTOINK, New Delhi)

Some whimsical rooftop sculptures found in India are featured in a photo exhibit new to Surrey Art Gallery.

Opening Saturday, April 9, “Rajesh Vora: Everyday Monuments” documents more than 100 eye-grabbing sculptures mounted on rooftops in the northwestern Indian state of Punjab.

They’re shaped like airplanes, birds, soccer balls, cars, army tanks, weightlifters, horses and other objects, made from rebar, wire mesh, cement and paint.

Many of the sculptures serve as functional water tanks, and often tell stories of identity, diaspora, family and culture.

“They show how art, architecture and everyday life meld together,” an event advisory outlines. “Vora’s photographs are an important record of this cultural expression of the Punjab that is all but unknown beyond India.”

Based in Mumbai, Vora will speak during the exhibit-opening event, 6:30 p.m. April 9, with guest curator Keith Wallace also in attendance, plus music by Aanam from Tala Collective.

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Vora has visited close to 150 Punjabi villages since 2014 to document the “amazing sculptures,” Wallace noted. “With Surrey being the hub of B.C.’s Punjabi population, Surrey Art Gallery is the natural location to exhibit his photographs.”

Gaining popularity in the 1980s, the rooftop-sculpture phenomenon is distinct to Punjabi villages, an event advisory says. Local artists precast the sculptures from a mould that usually took the form of airplanes, falcons and footballs. Over the years, artists have custom-fabricated the sculptures for each homeowner, resulting in more diverse and elaborate works of art.

“The sculptures installed on top of the houses are emblems of pride,” gallery operators explain. “They often represent personal and commemorative family symbols. For example: My grandfather had the first tractor in the village; my son is a weightlifter; we took Air Canada to reach our new home; we bought a Maruti car; my father was in the Indian army. These anecdotes reveal that these domestic sculptures are more than an artistic or architectural phenomenon. They tell a diasporic story that has echoes around the world.”

At Surrey Art Gallery until May 29, Vora’s photos of the sculptures are shown for first time outside of India.

Other spring exhibits there include “Art by Surrey Elementary Students” (until May 1) and “ARTS 2022,” a juried exhibition organized by the Arts Council of Surrey (May 7-July 24).

Admission is free at the gallery, open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. As of April 24, Sunday hours are from noon to 5 p.m. For more info, visit

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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