Bringing Forth Unsung Tales of Birangonas | The Daily Star
12:09 AM, August 28, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:19 AM, August 28, 2013

Bringing Forth Unsung Tales of Birangonas

In conversation with Leesa Gazi

lessaWith every minute detail about the Liberation War filled with the praise of male participation, the women who spent nine nightmarish months during the war remain unsung. We say tens of thousands of women were subjected to rape, torture and abuse by the Pakistan army and their local collaborators, but how many of us know the agonies of the war heroines? The history of the war simply deprives the women of their due credit; it is misconstrued and ignored. The stories of women being tied and gang-raped in Pakistani camps, piles of dead bodies of raped women being dumped in some unknown mass graves-- simply remained out of sight. Since rape is a taboo and raped women are the subjects of hatred in the conservative social structure, the horror has never been dug up; marked with dishonour they remained silent and ostracised.
Komola Collective, a London-based theatre and arts company, dedicated to narrating the stories of women from the women's perspective came up and initiated a project to bring forth the stories of war heroines through a theatrical production-- “Birangona: Brave Women.”
In a recent conversation with The Daily Star, Leesa Gazi, actor, writer and founding member of Komola Collective, shared the journey and experiences of bringing these unheard stories to people.
The Background: Stories about Birangonas were pretty familiar to Leesa, and in 2010, she had the chance of meeting a number of war heroines at a women's organisation in Sirajganj. Since we categorise these women as Birangonas and treat them differently, she felt an urge to document the stories from their point of view. They also have personal lives, families, childhood, loved ones, husbands -- as a whole they are individuals like us, and Leesa is working to bring forth their life sketches as individuals. “When a Birangona dies, she takes her story along, so I felt that it was necessary to document the tales,” she said.
The Production: The production is all about the stories of Birangonas, their subjective expressions of inner experiences. Their experiences during war, and post war period will become vivid through the production. Leesa Gazi will come on the stage as the solo character, while in the background -- shadow work and a multimedia production will depict stories. After the research and development show of “Birnagona: Brave Women,” at the end of this month, the production will open in the UK, and other countries.
The relevance of this project in the present context: The production is extremely relevant to contemporary times; throughout history, women have been the worst victim of war strategies. In addition, the new generation is growing up without even knowing history, so it is a must that we properly document the tales and present them to the youngsters so that these can be passed along the generations.
The experimental staging will help Komola Collective to develop the story; and the aim of Leesa is to spread their stories so that the roles and agony of women do not go unsung.

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