The Elderly Panjabi Community

Baljinder Kaur 6 years ago

This week, I began collating references and material for a project that has been unofficially bubbling for a while, stemming from my fascination with the elderly panjabi community.

I've been fortunate to have interest from other artists, filmakers and photographers who wish to collabroate throughout this project.
Today I recieved the support of Narvir Singh, a filmaker from London, who often explores themes around diaspora and community in his own work.

We interviewed and filmed members of the elderly congregation at our local Gurudwara. The questions we asked were mostly about their childhood in India (or Africa), their experiences when migrating to the UK and the things that life had taught them. Most of them had come to England during the 1950's and 60's and although it was very interesting and heartfelt to hear of their hardships, I wanted more than just the surface level. And this was perhaps a struggle because of the language barrier. Although I am fluent in Panjabi, there are many words and concepts that I struggle to translate, mostly around existential and emotional health.

What I REALLY wanted to know, was when they were in those dark places, what helped them get through? How did they actually FEEL being bullied everyday for being the only brown kid in school?What was their light in the darkness? What gave them their sense of worth & purpose? Why is the Guru of value to them?
The atmosphere of being in a public space also had something to do with the types of responses, so I am currently trying to figure a way of approaching them in their homes, in more intimate spaces. 

The photographer and artist Navi Kaur, will be helping me to collect more this Wednesday. So in the meanwhile I'm going to re-assess and re-allign the purpose of this project. Yes I want to archive, yes I want to explore and yes I want to celebrate that golden and often forgotten, quietened generation, who never really had the opportunity to heal or be heard. But over-riding all that, visual expression, or any art-form is about connecting. And the most worthwhile form of connection for me, is that which brings light. Because that is what the Guru does for me. 

Going forwards, I hope to hear more about the timeless flints of light that bought them to where they are now, and their sense of worth that keeps getting them out of bed every morning, wanting to breathe, wanting to keep moving, despite it all. 

To be continued.