My grandparents are from Madurai, a small temple town in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. Having migrated to Nigeria when I was 3, I visited them in the summers and occasional winters, always dreading the harsh heat, my grandparents company and their Tamilian identity - their rituals, prayers, festivals and habits embarrassed me. I rejected them as an attempt to present myself as a modern cosmopolitan city child.
Now as an adult I have so many questions, both simple and complex - What was your favourite sari to wear? how do I convey my desire to say ‘longing’ in Tamil? Why did you give me my name?
In this exploration, I began to interview my parents, our watchman Ramar, our milkman Sundar, our laundry man Pandi and my grandfather’s business associate Srinivasan - all of whom have had a relationship with them in a more intimate capacity than I have. A reality of these socially dynamic relationships is that the workers of my grandparents are from a lower social cast than our family. Within this disparate reality present in India, I acknowledge that the portraits of them is filtered by my gaze as an upper caste brahmin woman. The power struggle in photographing the ‘other’ is an inherent issue through the photographic medium. As a result, I decided not to share their portraits with the intent on further reflecting and elaborating how I can portray them in a manner that can justly convey them.
As I deal with these challenges, I continue to build a relationship with my grandparents after their passing. The photo and video function as an attempt to connect us to them, rediscover them in their home and learn about myself - the youngest one in the family.
Below are portraits, and stills from the video.
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