“Reth aur Reghistan” puts Pakistani folktales in a contemporary setting through poetry and sculpture. Figures like Mai Kolachi, the namesake of Karachi. The Seven Queens from Shah Abdul Latif Bhatai’s verses, including Sohni Mahiwal and Noori Jam Tamachi. Urban figures, such as the churail or the jinn.
Folklore comes in many forms. The stories told at the dinner table, the lullabies sung at bedtime, the songs people dance to at dholkis. We’re interested in how stories are passed down, who tells them, and how they evolve. What threads connect stories from generation to generation? How do stories flow alongside each other? And how does religion and culture shape and influence stories?
We grew up hearing about the jinns who roamed streets at night. These stories were why we came home at maghrib and never walked under or touched trees at night. At home, these stories were why we didn’t cut our nails after dark and kept our hair tied up.
From going to art classes as kids to creating sculptures from materials found in our backyards, we’ve been creatively collaborating for decades. Our combined interests in art, literature, and feminism inspired us to create “Reth aur Reghistan.”
Stories influence human behaviour for generations, and are the reason why people do what they do. They are so natural to us, yet can seem strange to someone who sees an action without the context of the story. Through our project, we want to give young Pakistani’s in the country and abroad, the context that can help bridge the knowledge gap between us and our ancestry. As grandparents and grandchildren move further apart, as the poetic nuances of these stories becomes blurred in the English language, as our identities become multiple and overlapping. We hope to provide readers a space where the imagination of past meets present.
Our project mixes our various skills as we explore a new medium. We gather folktales through interviews and texts. We re-imagine the narratives through prose poetry and visualize the characters through sculpture. Inspired by the style and evocative worlds created in Shaun Tan’s volume, The Singing Bones, our end goal is to produce a book of the poetry alongside photographs of the sculptures.
We will spend two months researching folktales from communities and archives in Karachi. Its history as a trading hub, a political and historical centre, and a key city for Muslim refugees after the partition, makes Karachi a city that holds a wide range of peoples and groups. Our experiences growing up, and our intimate connection with the stories that the city holds led us to choose Karachi as the primary place of research.
We welcome you to join us with your stories and yourselves!