The Gurmani Centre for Languages and Literature organised a talk on Heer Waris Shah. The speakers at the talk were Maqsood Saqib and Huma Safdar.
The talk was organised to mark the 250 years since Waris Shah’s magnum opus, Heer was written in Malka Hans, Punjab. The speakers highlighted how the qissa undoubtedly stands at the centre of the Punjabi literary tradition, echoing across time, across genres, reinventing itself through the works of poetic giants such as Madhu Lal Hussain, Bulleh Shah and Sachal Sarmast. The qissa presents a multi-faceted insight into medieval Punjab, and is a remarkable analysis of its sociological, political, economic and cultural realities, in addition to being a masterpiece of literary craft and story-telling.
The speakers shared that in addition to its intellectual value, Heer Waris has also had a vibrant performative life, animating Punjab’s folk tradition and consciousness through popular music and theatre. Today, the place of Heer Waris in the local imaginary is shrinking rapidly, making it more important than ever to re-visit the monumental epic to try to re-vitalise the historical cultural links which Punjab has lost.
Maqsood Saqib is a Punjabi short story writer and researcher. He is also editor of the monthly Punjabi magazine, Pancham, and runs a publishing house for Punjabi books, Suchet Kitab Ghar, where both classics and contemporary works are published. Saqib also leads a study circle in his office every week in which Heer Waris Shah is being read. In addition to the Punjabi classics, he has worked on language and politics and has translated many English authors into Punjabi.
Huma Safdar is a theatre activist who has been working with the Sangat troupe for many years. She has directed, organized and acted in hundreds of street theatre productions, including contemporary plays by Najm Hosein Syed, which have been performed all over Punjab on a completely voluntary basis. She has also recently scripted and directed a play on Waris Shah’s Heer, titled “Jogi hoike aa,” which has been performed since the past four years.