logo
 

Portfolio: Rajesh Vora

Everyday Baroque

 

Photograph © Rajesh Vora

 

 

Photograph © Rajesh Vora

 

 

Photograph © Rajesh Vora

 

 

Photograph © Rajesh Vora

 

 

Photograph © Rajesh Vora

 

 

Photograph © Rajesh Vora

 

 

Photograph © Rajesh Vora

 

 

Photograph © Rajesh Vora

 

 

Photograph © Rajesh Vora

 

 

Photograph © Rajesh Vora

 

 

Photograph © Rajesh Vora

 

 

Photograph © Rajesh Vora

 

 

Photograph © Rajesh Vora

 

 

 

Artist's Statement

A few years ago, while traveling in the villages of Punjab, I witnessed a unique scene – to obtain quick visas, devotees offered toy planes at a place of worship popularly known as the Airplane Gurudwara. More fascinating were the rumors of successful, wealthy immigrants, returning to their village and placing an airplane model on their newly-built homes.

Intrigued, I made frequent trips to the Doaba region, popularly termed the NRI (Non-Resident Indian) hub of Punjab. This fascination turned into excitement, and soon a visual obsession. As I traveled over 100 villages, crisscrossing 6000 km through four districts, I had no map, guide, address, nor any available research, but only an intense desire to discover these places - following a hunch, a hint, a friendly nod, a passing glimpse, a silhouette or at times just aimless driving, I discovered on top of NRI homes: tea cups, battle tanks, weight‐lifters, whisky bottles, pots, footballs, cars, lotuses, horses, airplanes, and many such strange objects. The artistic opportunities licensed by the NRI wealth in building these homes, adorned with fanciful objects serving as water storage tanks or even those placed on the water tanks, soon turned for me into a veritable feast.

Though most of these houses remained locked and deserted, the extravagant objects on the rooftops infused life to the house. Not only did they enhance drama to the otherwise serene skyline, but also became landmarks for the village. Often when the skyline came alive with more than one such imaginative object, a jugalbandi [the duet of two solo musicians in Indian classical music] unfolded.

I realized that, besides having an aesthetic or function of their own, these objects also raise the owners' status in the society and are often immortalized with stories about their struggles, successes, and achievements; reflecting their faith, gratitude, profession, and aspirations. Local artisans spread all over this region, work as collaborators with the house owner or are commissioned to create these imaginative concrete objects in their makeshift workshops, which are then transported, lifted, assembled, finished, and painted on site.

Moreover, this trend seems very much a part of the whole Punjabi culture, where celebration of life in all its diversity and pomp is always a done thing. Shaukeen is the word often used to refer to one who is extremely fond of something, and therefore practicing it simply for the love of it.

Only a successful NRI Punjabi restaurant owner in Birmingham would think of a water tank in the shape of a pressure cooker over his house, and seeing this his fellow Punjabi NRI would emulate with a new form and give it a different twist, and I guess this would go on and on. I remain shaukeen of this celebration.

(Vora is working on a proposal to take this exhibition to Vancouver, which has a substantial presence of Punjabi immigrants, to bring this work closer to them. During the event, through interactive sessions, he will listen to stories of the immigrants, and look for further possibilities of photo documentation.)

-----

At the time of our 1:1 Interview with Rajesh, he was asked this question about Everyday Baroque.

PSA: Please elaborate how Everyday Baroque draws influences from your interests in both documentary and architectural photography.

RV: This series, tells stories about the migrants, their struggles, successes, riches and how embellishments on their mansions translate their achievements into symbols of pride in their native villages.

Knowing very well the hardships that migrants often goes through in a foreign land and culture, I never looked down on these monuments, but rather for me it was about celebrating their stories through Everyday Baroque. Whenever possible, before photographing the objects I tried to gather information from villagers about the homeowner, as I wanted to bring together these narratives and their creations on the building tops in a visual language. Here, I find both of my interests overlapping and creating imagery with multiple layers – locked and deserted homes of migrants, success stories, imaginative placement of objects atop the houses, a certain aesthetic of these built spaces, fusing into a narrative style.

Date Published

20 November

Category
Portfolios