Camilla will not wear the Koh-i-Noor diamond. This Vancouver artist wants the royals to give it back

Artist Jessie Sohpaul stands in front of his mural Kohinoor, where are you? on February 15, 2023.  on Main Street in Vancouver.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - photo credit)

Artist Jessie Sohpaul stands in front of his mural Kohinoor, where are you? on February 15, 2023. on Main Street in Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC – photo credit)

A Vancouver-based artist is attracting attention for a mural he painted in 2022 depicting the controversial Koh-i-Noor diamond.

On Tuesday, Buckingham Palace announced that Queen Mary’s crown will be used for the coronation of Camilla, the Queen Consort at Westminster Abbey – but without the Koh-i-Noor diamond.

The diamond’s name is also spelled Kohinoor and Koh-i-Nur.

Jessie Sohpaul, the artist behind the Kohinoor, where are you? Mural, he says the British monarchy might not want to spark talks about the diamond’s rightful owner – but instead the opposite could happen.

“I think it might spark even more conversation now that she won’t be wearing it,” he said.

Ben Nelms/CBC

Ben Nelms/CBC

Sohpaul’s 35-foot mural, located in Vancouver’s Punjabi Market at Main and 49th Streets in the back alley behind HC Jewelers, has the diamond painted in the center and the word “Kohinoor” in English and Punjabi on top and bottom.

It also shows two Sikh men at either end, wearing turbans and facing the street.

“The idea of ​​having the Koh-i-Noor in the middle and the men facing away from it… tells the story of how the Koh-i-Noor is ‘missing’. The British have it now,” he said.

“So that was the kind of idea. It is not in South Asian or Indian hands.”

History of Koh-i-Noor

Sohpaul says he wanted to paint the mural in a location that was symbolic of the community and would spark people’s interest in the history of the diamond.

“Koh-i-Noor is one of those diamonds that every Punjabi, Indian and Pakistani household knows, you know, the infamous diamond that was stolen,” he said.

WATCH: The return of the Koh-i-Noor would be a ‘powerful’ gesture, says muralist:

It is believed that Koh-i-Noor was mined sometime in the 13th or 14th century and was owned by various Indian rulers before falling into the hands of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century.

It remained in the Mughal Empire until the mid-18th century when it was conquered by the Persian ruler Nadir Shah. It then changed hands several times before coming into the possession of the Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh in the early 19th century.

It is known that the British East India Company finally confiscated it from Ranjith Singh’s 11-year-old son Duleep Singh in 1849 and presented it to Queen Victoria. It has remained a part of the British Crown Jewels ever since.

“The British will say it wasn’t stolen, it was written into a contract,” says Sohpaul. “But that contract was somehow forced on Duleep Singh, the last legitimate owner of the Koh-i-Noor.”

Owning Koh-i-Noor has been a subject of controversy, Sohpaul says, as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have claimed rights to it due to their pre-partition ties.

Although returning the diamond would not right the wrongs of colonial Britain, Sohapaul believes it would be a “powerful” gesture by the monarchy in acknowledging its past.

WATCH: The story behind Britain’s ownership of the Koh-i-Noor diamond:

“There’s a lot of people who aren’t educated on this, and I think this would start that kind of conversation about how we can move forward based on the history of the colonial past,” he said.

Buckingham Palace has announced that the Queen Consort will wear a recycled crown to the coronation with some minor modifications paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II as the crown will be reset with the Cullinan III, IV and V diamonds.

“Her Majesty’s choice of Queen Mary’s Crown is the first time in recent history that an existing crown has been used for the coronation of a consort, rather than being commissioned a new one, in the interest of sustainability and efficiency,” the palace said in an opinion.


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