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Project Dastaan

Exhibition of ‘Child of Empire’ held in Lahore

Many tales of the largest forced migration in recorded history — the 1947 Partition of Indian and Pakistan — are lost and untold after 75 years. Most of the survivors have passed away and only a few have recounted tales of their experiences to their offspring. Project Dastaan, the brain child project of Saadia Gardezi, Sparsh Ahuja and Sam Dalrymple, came into being in 2018 as a peace building initiative which documents the human impact of global migration and connects survivors of partition with their ancestral homes.

Project Dastaan is a homage to the legacy of the millions of refugees in the subcontinent who had their lives changed overnight. The project is generously supported by the CatachLight Foundation, Digital Catapult and Arts Council Englands’ CreativeXR Program and National Geographic Society Exploration Grant.

During Project Dastaan’s Pakistan tour, the content that will be screened includes a Virtual Reality (VR) film Child of Empire, and a 2D animated series Lost Migrations consisting of 3 short films about lesser known Partition stories. This award-winning film has been screened at Victoria and Albert Museum, SOAS University of London, and Sundance Film Festival: Asia and is now touring in South Asia.


Child of Empire premiered in Pakistan at the Lahore National History Museum on the 19th November, 2022. The animated virtual reality documentary immerses viewers in real life accounts of three Partition witnesses from both sides of the border. They have been voiced by Adil Hussain and Salman Shahid. The immersive award-winning film can be seen at the ArtChowk Gallery in Karachi. The exhibition continues till Saturday, 24th December, 2022.

The film has been a labour of love, made possible by the team at Project Dastaan and Anzu Films.

3 Short Films (2D Animated Series) – LOST MIGRATIONS

Lost Migrations is an anthology of three beautiful animations, each of about 6 to 8 minutes about a community that has been excluded from South Asian literature and historiography. It is the vision of Saadia Gardezi and Sam Dalrymple, animated and directed by Puffball Pakistan and Spitting Image India in a unique UK/India/Pakistan co-production.

Lost Migrations tells the stories of three communities of 1947 whose voice has been lost to history, even in the subcontinent.

Episode 1: Sultana’s Dream

It traverses through a series of dreamscapes, inspired by Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain’s 1905 feminist magic-realism. It depicts the various experiences and traumas incurred by women during Partition. The episode begins with an elderly Bengali woman based in present-day Calcutta, and through flashbacks to her migration, explores themes of forced conversion, abuses, abduction, and others. Screenplay by Saadia Gardezi, directed by Spitting Image India and generously financed by National Geographic Society.

Episode 2: Seabirds

It depicts the ripples of Partition far from the subcontinent’s borderlands, to its wider impact on the Chettiar Tamil diaspora, who were forced overnight to choose between their ancestral land of India, and countries in South-East Asia, where they had lived for generations. All told through a culinary conversation between a grandmother and her grandchild. Directed by Sawera Jahan, screenplay by Omi Zola Gupta and financed by British Council Arts.

Episode 3: Rest in Paper

It recounts the dark comedy of Ghulam Ali, who is an Indian citizen, but finds himself in Pakistan when the border is drawn in 1947. Thus begins a chain of arrests and paperwork, that see him cross the border a dozen times, and eventually abandoned in the no-mans land between the two countries. Kafka in 1947! Screenplay by Saadia Gardezi, directed by Haseeb Rehmaan and financed by British Council Arts.

The screening of Lost Migrations is currently hosted by Citizens Archive Pakistan on Friday, 16th December 2022 at Media Studio, Campus 154, SZABIST, Karachi. The screening will be followed by an interactive Q&A session with Sparsh Ahuja, Co-Founder Project Dastaan and Saqlain Zaidi, Assistant Professor, SZABIST. The discussion will be moderated by Aaliyah Tayyebi, Head of Research and Digital Archiving at CAP.

L to R (Lahore): Awais Malik, Director National History Museum, Saadia Gardezi, Project Dastaan, Noor Ahmed, General Manager The Citizens Archive of Pakistan

L to R (Khi): Noor Ahmed, General Manager The Citizen’s Archive of Pakistan, Sparsh Ahuja, Co Founder Project Dastaan, Sara Taher Khan, Board Member The Citizen’s Archive of Pakistan, Ahsan Najmi, President The Citizen’s Archive of Pakistan


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