Silk Routes Local Projects

Emerging from a conversation that began at the Maldives Symposium in March 2014, Silk Routes participants have developed bi-lateral and multi-lateral Local Projects centered on writing that engage youth, strengthen creative networks, and promote creative collaboration.
Farkhonda Rajabe
Short Story Competition
August 2014-October 2014
Despite a creative writing culture within Afghani universities, many young writers remain silenced—either lacking access to publishing opportunities or fearful to share their ideas. The purpose of this project was to create a short story competition which focused on Afghani heritage and that of the historic region known as the Ariana Empire, a region that connected both culturally and economically with more expansive Silk Routes. The competition was held amongst students at nine universities throughout Afghanistan as a way of encouraging a broader literary community geared towards emerging writers, uncovering new Afghani literary talents, and providing a space of collaboration, trust, and creativity. Once the competition committee selected several up-and-coming writers, who then became members of the Partaw Cultural House, they all came together for an awards ceremony and literary festival. Afghanistan desperately needs to hear the voices and ideas of its youth, and the Short Story Competition worked towards securing opportunities and safe literary communities for young Afghani writers.
Dr. Kavery Nambisan and Sridala Swami
Humanising Medicine. Through Past and Present.
September 2014-August 2016

With technological and skills-oriented changes in the medical profession, graduating doctors today have little in the way of interpersonal skills or multidisciplinary perspectives regarding the human condition. With this in mind, the purpose of this project was to bring a variety of speakers—writers, artists, film makers, musicians, and historians—to St. John’s Medical College as a way of inculcating humane values, enhancing the sensitivity of medical students, and developing a vibrant regional network of multi-talented, multi-disciplinary, and multi-faceted doctors and other professionals who feel strongly about the need for collaboration between the humanities and medical fields. Speakers discussed a variety of issues, including medical histories of interconnectedness and cultural exchange along the former Silk Routes. Through engaging budding doctors and encouraging creative thinking, the project enriched the contemporary medical profession in India. 

Jamby Djusubalieva
Djailoo Reading 
July 2014- September 2014
“Djailoo” in traditional Kyrgyz culture is a fundamental concept, embodying the summer pasture and grazing, where every year during warm period Kyrgyz nomads move their families and yurt homes. “Djailoo” occurs not only out of economic necessity, but also as a life-space and cultural practice that encourages free time and exploration for children.  The precarious situation in contemporary Kyrgyzstan affects youth and hinders their access to education and books. Djailoo Reading, therefore, sought to bring live readings and discussion—hosted by writers and/or actors—to ten remote communities in the Osh and Issyk-kul regions. These live readings, which were also recorded, aired throughout the school-year on Public Channel OTRK, creating a pilot TV program that promoted a culture of reading, regional collaboration and exchange.
Amma Raj Joshi, PhD
Recording Oral Folk Narratives along the Silk Routes
August 2014-January 2015

The northern Himalayan districts of Bajhang and Darchula in far western Nepal bordering Tibet still have  rich oral traditions that tell fascinating tales about human life and death, happiness and sadness, love and hate, along with rich details about societal customs, rituals, economies, cross border relations, and the hazards accrued by the difficult topography of the region.  Like many oral stories today, threatened by the erosion of traditional cultural practices and languages, these stories are on the verge of disappearance and with the changing landscape of Nepal and the rise in the tendency of linguistic code switching, there is a strong possibility that younger generations will discontinue such oral traditions. The goal of this project, therefore, was to record these folk narratives, engaging local youth in such endeavors in order to bridge the generational divides, and subsequently the publication of an archive, which helped to ensure the continuation of such longstanding traditions and stories. 

Suvani Singh
La.Lit: The Translation Series
August 2014-July 2015
The Translation Series was a special volume of La.Lit, a literary magazine that seeks to engage a broad community through literature and art. The overarching goal of the series was to promote regional literary exchange amongst diverse linguistic groups through the translation of works into English, which is understood as the most common language shared amongst Silk Route countries and is, despite its problems, perhaps the best medium for the sharing of stories and experiences. La.Lit’s editorial team worked with young writers and translators from various Silk Route countries in order to produce four texts from the region to be published in La.Lit and to strengthen the translation skills of young writers. The translation series set the first stones for a space and network for such a multilingual and transnational dialogue. 
Shandana Minhas and Bilal Tanweer
Silk Route Residency 
August 2014-February 2015
The Silk Route Residency was a 2-week rotating residency open to writers from any country legendary traveler Ibn Battuta passed through and noted in his memoir. This first residency will take place in February 2015 in Pakistan, where the resident will spend time in Karachi and Lahore. In each city, the writing resident conducted a 2-3 day writing workshop for young writers, participate in numerous literary and cultural events such as attend the Karachi Literature Festival, and engage with local writers and artists. The writer also maintained a blog on the Silk Routes website.  The goal of this residency was to strengthen and build regional networks for literary practitioners, enriching creative and cultural exchanges. 
Sri Lanka 
Ameena Hussein
Trailing Ibn Battuta: A journey through modern day Sri Lanka revisiting the sites written about by Ibn Battuta
October 2014-December 2015
In 1325 at the age of 22, Ibn Battuta, the great Moroccan traveler, left his home in Tangier for pilgrimage.  He covered 117,000 km and travelled as far as China, even making his way to Sri Lanka in 1344. While in Sri Lanka, he traversed ten cities from the north western to southern regions—climbing the holy mountain, Adam’s Peak (or Sri Pada), venturing to Galle, the famous world heritage city of today, and stopping by Colombo before returning to where he initially landed in Pattalam. Battuta’s observations reveal a unique account of 14th century Sri Lankan society, geography, and politics. The world has changed vastly since this time and this project’s purpose was to follow Battuta’s Sri Lankan route, noting the differences and similarities since his time of travel. Lastly, the project examined Battuta’s legacy in Sri Lanka and shared the project’s outcomes with youth throughout Sri Lanka. 

Happening Now

  • We regret the passing, on April 11, 2024, of the distinguished Romanian author and critic Dan Cristea, who served as the editor in chief of the Luceafărul de Dimineață cultural monthly. In addition to being an alum of the 1985 Fall Residency, Cristea received his PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Iowa.

  • Our congratulations to 1986 Fall Residency writer Kwame Dawes, who has been named the new poet laureate of Jamaica.

  • Congratulations to our colleagues Jennifer Croft and Aron Aji, who are among those serving as judges for the National Book Awards this year, in their case in the category of translated literature.

  • Ranjit Hoskote’s speech at the 2024 Goa Literary Festival addresses the current situation in Gaza.

  • In NY Times, Bina Shah worries about the state of Pakistani—and American—democracy.

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