By Mitan Sidhu
HOUSTON: One man can make a tremendous difference. Daniel Connell, an Australian visual artist, is doing precisely that.
Not only is he a very talented artist, but he is also a compassionate humanitarian. A man who sees the bigger picture, and one who uses whatever talents he has been blessed with to create that bigger picture in multiple ways.
Daniel Connell came across a young Sikh man by the name of Lakhvir, who was a student working part-time as a taxi driver in Adelaide. Conversing with Lakhvir, Daniel realized the discrimination, taunts, disparaging remarks and worse, that immigrants – especially Sikh taxi drivers – dealt with on a regular basis.
These immigrants were, after all, contributing to the smooth running of mainstream society, but were being targeted to be recipients of unacceptable behaviour. Their being a minority, with a markedly different appearance and customs drew attention. He wanted to do something about it. He wanted to make up for the unpleasant experiences so many were enduring.
The artist decided to become an educator and a bridge builder. He drew on the abundant talent he was blessed with; his ability to draw portraits that spoke eloquently without saying a word. He began sketching portraits of Sikhs, wanting to catch on paper their pride and spirit. He wanted the average Australian to see them as a productive part of the community. Since he knew that only some people visited art galleries, he took his art to the people. He wanted to familiarize the average person with the look of the new immigrants, for he felt that people respond to what is familiar.
Daniel chose to use small sheets of paper to sketch on, using masking tape to hold all the individual sheets together to make a larger one. The aim was to convey our fragility. Furthermore, he sketched on location, allowing and encouraging people to stop and ask questions. They did and he was only too happy to answer them.
One man’s compassion and effort have brought about more harmony within the community. Daniel’s effort has highlighted the plight of a minority and encouraged the majority to build bridges of understanding, tolerance and acceptance. As Daniel says, “Anything that shows people connecting across bridges and across gaps in positive ways can only have a positive effect.”
With that thing in mind, Daniel set out to improve his community and his efforts have had a far-reaching global ripple effect.