The stories of women are often silenced, overshadowed, or hidden in patriarchal societies in order to mold women into background characters. While the popular Bangladeshi children’s cartoon Thakurmar Jhuli (Grandmother’s Bag of Tales) is narrated by a woman—and often features stories of she-ghosts, queens, wives, and mothers-in-law—these stories generally paint women into one-dimensional gendered cultural stereotypes.
Her Tales of Bengal examines folktales of Bengal like “A Ghostly Wife” through a critical lens to bring forward how these gendered stereotypes are interwoven into these stories centered around women. Through annotating the original stories in red with questions and comments about the alarming way female characters are portrayed, the work aims to allow readers to look beyond the surface gender roles and inspire a deeper analysis into the stories of these women. While all of the female characters are very different in “A Ghostly Wife” for example, they are connected by similar challenges such as lacking autonomy, not having their own identity, or needing male saviors to achieve a happy ending.
The second thesis project consists of a red saree, which is a traditional draped garment worn in South Asia that connects all these different women from various folktales of Bengal. By wearing and owning these narratives on a traditional garment, the stories of these women and shared plights of navigating through this male-dominated world will be brought to light and reshape the difficult realities faced by many Bengali women today.