Play highlighting everyday lives, struggles of trans staged


Lahore: Olomopolo Media in collaboration with HOPE and Justice Project Pakistan’s campaign CriminalizeTorture staged Teesri Dhun at Surt Studio, Lahore on Sunday.

All khwaja sira cast of the play offered intimate and provocative glimpses into their everyday lives and struggles, belongings and longings – in love, God, community, expression and existence. The play unfolds layers of gender, sexual and class violence – in the backdrop of colonial pasts to postcolonial transgender rights – and invites resistance. Uplifting the power of khwaja sira music, dance and storytelling, Teesri Dhun celebrates the possibilities of performance to generate spaces beyond multiple binaries.

Teesri Dhun is an outcome of Dr. Shahnaz Khan and Dr. Claire Pamment’s research on khwaja sira rights, activism and performance. Over an intense 2014 devising workshop, our six performers — Sunniya Abbasi, Jannat Ali, Naghma Gogi, Lucky Khan, Anaya Rahimi and Neeli Rana—worked with directors in weaving their own narratives with those of the larger khwaja sira community—privileging a process of collaborative theatre making, across different identities and subjectivities.

The production premiered at Alhamra Arts Council, Lahore in March 2015, and was produced in collaboration with OLOMOPOLO Media. Since then, the piece was staged at Yale University (Institute of Sacred Music) and the University of Austin, Texas (South Asia Institute) in Spring 2016. Subsequently in the Fall of 2016, it was performed at National College of Arts, Rawalpindi (produced by OLOMOPOLO Media). It also returned for another run in Lahore in December 2016. Vignettes of the play have been staged at the British Council supported WOW Festival, Karachi (Spring 2016) and at Warehouse9, Copenhagen in collaboration with AKS Festival (Fall 2016).

As Teesri Dhun returns to Lahore, it invites us to ponder if, how and why its stories are still as relevant today as they were when the play premiered in 2015. How much have things really changed? At a present juncture when the 2018 Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act is being challenged, where transgender visibility is often precipitated on a gaping class gulf, and widespread violence continues—we hope Teesri Dhun continues to attune us all to khwaja sira struggles, art, activism and resistance. Khwaja sira struggles implicate us all, and challenge us to work collaboratively to change the tune.

Teesri Dhun’s current run is co-produced with Olomopolo Media and the support of Having Only Positive Expectations (HOPE) and Justice Project Pakistan’s (JPP) #CriminalizeTorture campaign, highlighting the need to hold perpetrators of torture accountable through legislation.

Justice Project Pakistan’s community outreach officer and cast member Neeli Rana said: “We live through torture, hate and intimidation every single day of our lives, but that’s not all of it. We also live a life of courage, hope and harmony hoping that our voices will be heard and our stories will be told. We don’t ask for anything more than what law of this land offers every citizen of this country, all we want is a life free of violence and torture.”