Quiet, sometimes self-confident, sometimes shy or sceptical: virtually all those portrayed are looking into the camera; many of them giving the photographer their full attention. There are many typical yet inconspicuous places where the traces of India are manifold and unmistakable. The Golden Mile – which gave the title to this wonderful illustrated book – is in Leicester, one of the oldest cities in the heart of the British Isles. The influx of migrants from the Indian subcontinent after World War II was particularly significant here, the proportion of immigrants today lies at around 40%; the city is considered ethically diverse and tolerant, even though social tension arise from time to time.
The photographer (born 1972) grew up very close to the so-called Golden Mile: a segment of road where the Indian community has established their centre. Even so, this photo book does not deal exclusively with the mile-long section of Melton Road, that merges into Belgrave Road with its sari shops, Indian restaurants and jewellers. The typical atmosphere is found a little bit further: “It’s about the arteries and veins that come from it, giving life to parts of the neighbourhood away from the central commercial thoroughfare. This Golden Mile exists in the poetry of homes, temples and street corners; it’s down the alleys and through the gaps in steel fencing leading to crumbling industrial plots. This Golden Mile is both an entry point and an ending, the last mile of a long journey to Britain.”
In 2016, the photographer returned to the district with his own family and began to take pictures, to reconnect with the city, its inhabitants and his own past. During his childhood, racism was part of everyday normality: he was spat on, chased by the National Front, insulted and called me "Wog" or a "Paki", and told to “go back home”. As soon as he turned 18, he moved to London without looking back.
Pujara's personal explorations took place during a period of social upheaval – just a few weeks after his return, following a referendum on the EU, the United Kingdom decided to begin Brexit, and in 2020 the conservative government brought in reforms to the immigration laws. The photographer quickly realised that the personal and the political belong together, “…but it was impossible to ignore the societal turn toward anti-immigrant populism.” Pujara hopes that the book he has just published may contribute towards the immigration discussion.
Pujara worked in large-format and using a tripod: “This helped me slow down, talk to people and, to a degree, dictate the aesthetics of images I could make,” he explains. His series is much more than just a personal return; if you look a bit closer, it exemplifies all immigrant communities in transformation. (Ulrich Rüter)
All images on this page: © Kavi Pujara
Kavi Pujara: This Golden Mile
116 pages, 57 colour images
22 x 26.5 cm English and Gujarati
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