This Golden Mile: New photobook celebrates Leicester's South Asian community in style
Photographer Kavi Pujara's first monograph and solo show, The Golden Mile, is his most personal work to date.
Kavi Pujara was born in Leicester in 1972, just ten minutes from the area known as the Golden Mile, which is renowned for its authentic Indian restaurants, sari shops and jewellers and has been described as "the closest that Britain comes to an Indian bazaar".
After 30 years of living in London, he returned in 2016 and began to photograph the neighbourhood as a way to reconnect with the city, its residents and his own past.
Now, some of these images are going on show as part of a Martin Parr Foundation exhibition entitled This Golden Mile, along with an accompanying book published by Setanta.
"For over fifty years, families around This Golden Mile have had a shared experience of migrating to Leicester and have re-articulated their South Asian identity to exist within an English context," Kavi explains. "These experiences bond this community, and they bond them to me.
"I made this book to give voice to that bond," he continues, "and I also hope it will contribute to the conversation around immigration to Britain. We have a multicultural society because Britain is the product of a multicultural empire. Communities like this are not an erosion of British values or its culture, but a vital artery in our intertwined and tangled colonial histories."
As a child, Kavi would visit most weekends to see his grandmother. It was a time when overt acts of racism: being spat at, chased by the National Front, being called 'wog' or a 'Paki' and being told to 'Go back home' were common.
As soon as he turned 18, Pujara moved to London and never looked back. When he did return, nearly 30 years later with his young family, making pictures allowed him to rediscover the community he grew up in but no longer knew.
"This Golden Mile is not about the one-mile stretch of Melton Road that turns into Belgrave Road with its sari shops, Indian restaurants and jewellers," Kavi says. "It's about the arteries and veins that come from it, giving life to the parts of the neighbourhood away from the central commercial thoroughfare.
He adds: "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."
A few weeks after Pujara returned to Leicester in 2016, the UK voted Leave in the EU referendum. In 2020, the Conservative government introduced The Nationality and Borders Bill, reforming immigration laws, which included many controversial policies and has been criticised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
It is against this backdrop that Pujara prepared what will be his first solo exhibition and his first monograph.
"What a pleasure to see the work of Kavi Pujara growing and flourishing into a book and exhibition," says photographer Martin Parr. "He first came to our attention through the Martin Parr Foundation bursary scheme, and this has proven a very good way of finding emerging talent. We love to give photographers their first shows, and this is a prime example."
The exhibition runs at the Martin Parr Foundation, Paintworks, 316, Arno's Vale, Bristol from 6 October to 18 December. Two portraits from This Golden Mile have also been selected for the National Portrait Gallery's Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2022 exhibition and will be on display at Cromwell Place, London from 27 October - 18 December 2022.
The accompanying book, This Golden Mile, will be published by Setanta Books this October.