More extensive Western rhetoric often sees South Asians as the model minority. We’re upstanding citizens, usually doctors and engineers, and we keep our heads down, work hard, and are exceptionally polite.
Yet, in many European countries, South Asians are anything but a model minority. In countries like Spain and Italy, you’ll find many South Asians among blue-collar workers. We occupy little space in the popular imagination for much of Europe, oscillating between the out-of-date exotic snake charmer image or the slumdog millionaire. Unfairly, much media representation and headlines in European countries narrowly focus on the South Asian diaspora’s migration problem, religious instabilities, and exploitation.
But, like all else, there is more than meets the surface. These South Asians have lived meaningful lives spanning decades. They’ve created homes and respectability that’s hidden in portrayal and consciousness.
To shed light on the multifaceted lives of South Asians in Europe, photographer Jai Toor spent a summer photographing Italy’s Sikh community in the tiny town of Novellara. He captures faces and places that compel viewers to shed stereotypes and confront the integration and progress of the Sikh-Italian community.
Novellara is a beautiful reminder of the boundlessness of imagination. It takes a radical vision to create a home by merging a foreign culture with your own. From the Punjabi fliers posted on the same board as the Italian posters to the Italian red clay roof on top of Dhillon’s Center, Toor’s images celebrate the humanity and cultural impact of the Sikh Italian Community. Scroll through Toor’s series below.
photos by Jai Toor
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