Everyday Monuments is an exhibition of photographs by Mumbai-based photographer Rajesh Vora of sculptural domestic water tanks and “showpieces” mounted on the top of houses. These architectural embellishments are constructed from rebar, wire mesh, cement, and paint and take the form of birds, soccer balls, various animals such as lions, horses, and oxen, airliners, automobiles, army tanks, weight lifters, pressure cookers, etc. While some are mass-produced, the majority are unique objects commissioned by and custom fabricated for each client. The architecture of the houses themselves is a combination of various styles that are highly decorative and intricate. Having emerged in the 1980s, the mix of styles, genres, and historical periods of these houses marks a trend that breaks with conventional design boundaries and serves as an example where art, architecture, and everyday life seamlessly meld together. These photographs are an important document of sculptural and architectural features that are characteristic of Punjabi village culture and all but unknown outside of India, and built primarily by those who have left the villages and are part of the South Asian diaspora.
Greater Vancouver has one of the largest Punjabi populations outside of India, and the Surrey Art Gallery, is located within the largest concentration of Punjabis in BC. The presentation of these photographs is important in the Surrey Art Gallery’s initiatives to represent the vast diversity that makes up one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada. This exhibition is the first time these photographs will have been seen outside of India.