I have a VHS cassette from the summer of 1994. It’s a wedding video in Smethwick. Dozens of guests gather outside our house. Some push a burgundy Mercedes with ribbons of flowers across the bonnet up the road toward the edge of frame. Others hurl Scottish pound notes on the roof as kids scoop up the cash like a frenzy of feeding fish. Aside from my nostalgia for suits two sizes too big and the wild bushy haircuts, I’ve always known I’d come back to make a project that explores it’s meanings, for in that frame lies the universe I was born in.
I was thirteen years old that summer; most of the factory jobs men came for were gone, and the men who’d arrived with little more than a suitcase and a handful of currency now owned houses and had young families, attempting to recreate their old lives in this new corner of the world. With family ties to the Punjab waning, the big move had become more complex than anyone foresaw. Our families were at a crossroads, each was battling to keep it together, with losses and victories across generational and cultural lines.
I’m deeply fascinated by the early years and have memorialised them in my artist film Year Zero: Black Country and more recently in a series of fine art photographs that resurrect mythologies and testimonies from the time. I believe they open up an unexpected universe of exploration.