Sultana's Reality


Sultana’s Reality is an interactive multimedia story that explores the relationship between women and the colonial education movement in India using archival imagery, women’s writing and history.

If it’s said that well-behaved women seldom make history, why is it that our history textbooks rarely have women behaving ‘badly’? Are the readers forgetting certain kinds of books or are the writers forgetting certain kinds of stories?

Drawing its title from Sultana’s Dream, the 1905 science-fiction short story of feminist utopia by Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossein, Sultana’s Reality explores the inner lives of the first generation of women to be educated in pre-independent India.

Following an Alice in Wonderland style adventure the interactive multimedia installation brings to life accounts of different women – who would rather nap than read, who were stoned in the streets for wearing shoes and carrying umbrellas, who read forbidden texts in secret at night, who read and then challenged the very ideas they read… and those who went on to write books - telling their story in their own words. The books they wrote reveal a universe of women’s lives as they were actually lived – outside the confines of bad and good behavior. The women in the books and the books in the women were full of messiness, intimacy, cynicism, humor, anger, dreams, beauty and love - and all of it together makes up their history, and this story.

The story is told through animated video, graphics, gif’s, comics, collages and other digital art forms made by collating, re-mixing, re-interpreting and re-imagining traditional visual imaginations of the female form. It tries to explore the multiplicity of women’s history and also image making – the ways in which it is told and remembered. Sultana’s Reality is perhaps an exercise in questioning history. Not the history of the image, but a history that is constructed with the image.

This work was made possible by an Archival and Museum Fellowship by India Foundation for the Arts at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, with support from Voltas Limited.

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