Kavi Pujara grew up in Leicester in the 1970s. At 18, he left for London and rarely looked back. But 30 years later he and his young family returned to live in his home city and he began a photographic project to reconnect with the place he remembered.
This Golden Mile is about the streets – Melton Road and Belgrave Road – which have long been the focal point of the Hindu community in Leicester. The book and exhibition that Pujara has created, he suggests, are not about the “sari shops, Indian restaurants and jewellers of that area”, but about the “arteries and veins” of shared culture that start from there. “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 recent weeks, some of the tensions of that long journey from the subcontinent have overflowed in violence on Leicester’s streets between young Muslim and Hindu men. Pujara’s pictures examine and celebrate different images of the challenges and successes of assimilation. This one shows a Victorian doorstep in one of the terraced streets around the Golden Mile, decorated for a Hindu holiday – Holi or Diwali – when everyone in the neighbourhood will make patterns with powdered paint. Many of the designs, like this one, incorporate “swastiks, Oms and flowers” – the former a symbol of peace long before the Nazis appropriated it.
“We have a multicultural society because Britain is the product of a multicultural empire,” Pujara says. “Communities like this one are not an erosion of British values or its culture but a vital artery in our intertwined and tangled colonial histories.”