4 July 2011

Neena Makhija and Natasha Raheja report on the Sindhi Voices Project, a participatory media and oral history initiative which began operating formally in 2010 and is currently under their leadership. ‘The 1947 Partition of British India yielded one of the largest mass migrations of people in contemporary history.

 The Sindh province, now located in Pakistan, experienced a huge efflux and influx of people and, like the rest of South Asia, continues to fall prey to conflict along the reductive ethnic and religious lines imposed and hardened in the hurried partitioning of the subcontinent. A widespread and systematic documentation of this ongoing shift amongst Sindhi communities has not been undertaken and dominant, collective memories of the past continue to have a stronghold over generations of Sindhis.

*Students at a school in Rajasthan, India listen to an interview during an oral history workshop.

 The Sindhi Voices Project (SVP) foregrounds individual experiences of Sindhis from diverse class, gendered, geographic, and religious backgrounds through the usage of participatory media and oral history practices.


‘At present, we are focusing on listening to the voices of Sindhi elders with pre-partition memories whose stories are quickly leaving us. Committed to engaging and mobilizing communities in the production of their histories, we have developed an oral history interview field kit available in several languages. Our field kit is a step by step guide on how to conduct, record, and submit an interview to our collection. In addition to distributing this field kit amongst Sindhi communities across the globe, we are conducting oral history and audiovisual recording workshops for tenth to twelfth standard Sindhi students in India and Pakistan. Key challenges we are currently facing include the equal representation of Sindhis from different backgrounds and the reconciliation of oral history interview conventions with the task of interviewing being so widely democratized.
‘We plan to bring together all audio and video recordings of Sindhi life narratives both in the form of a publicly accessible, interactive online archive and the physical circulation of A performance of ‘Black Box’ based on oral history interviews. Students at a school in Rajasthan, India listen to an interview during an oral history workshop an artistic multimedia exhibit. As part of our commitment to extending community participation beyond the recording of oral histories, we will be integrating the narratives collected into a multimedia-based dialogue curriculum for Sindhi youth.

*Grandmother and granddaughter: sharing and listening to life’s stories in Rajasthan, India.

‘Lastly, as many of the oral histories illustrate the drawing of territorial maps and borders too often does not correspond to the complex ambiguity of lived realities. To further explore these intersections, we strive to situate our stories with collections from other communities that are also largely shaped by themes of movement and partitioning.’
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Source: International News Section of UK's Oral History Journal, Spring 2011, pp. 23-24

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