Majority of Pakistani youth is not enthralled by the country’s rich cultural heritage. There is less public knowledge on the subject. This translates into less appreciation or interest. The academic system is largely responsible for this. It imparts a conservative history of undivided India, focuses on politics, ignores its nuanced culture. Unless students venture into specialized fields of art and humanities, most do not get stimulated to study history. Additionally, today when digital learning is on the rise, there is a lack of relevant sources on the subject. This thesis is creating a digital source. It is re-packaging an Indian cultural folk story into a short animation. This may engage the target audience into thinking about their cultural heritage. Furthermore, it aims to interest a global audience.
Sohni Mahiwal is a folk story of the 1800’s. Set in Punjab (then in the Indian Subcontinent, and today split between India and Pakistan), it is part of a series of tragic love stories. Poets, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and Fazal Shah Sayyad were first to document this tale. Ever since it has become part of Pakistani pop culture. This story has been written about in prose and poetry, performed in film and television and has been the subject of paintings. Most recently in 2016, it resurfaced as an immensely popular Coke Studio song.
While this project is documenting one folk story, the general sentiment is to keep the region’s vast cultural heritage alive. It is an extraordinary region to study. Over centuries a variety of people made Hindustan their home. They all brought with them their way of life. This movement continued to enrich this region, creating a land of immeasurable diversity. Highlighting this will increase public knowledge on the subject and engender more social discourse.
It is impossible to study, present or preserve the complex Indian heritage in one project of this size and scale. This thesis complements the efforts of relevant organizations and artists. However, its medium is novel. A short digital animation is fitting to spark interest in the younger population. It can be conveniently shared across social media and quickly reach a bigger audience. Comments can generate dialogue. This can lead to further study. In addition, this project can expand into a series of short animations.
Visual Communication Design (MFA)
Department, Program, or Center
School of Design (CIAS)
Nancy A. Ciolek
Syed, Anem, "SOHNI MAHIWAL Preserving South Asian Cultural Heritage Through Animated Storytelling" (2017). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus