We got to exchange questions and insights with the team behind Stories By Dolls, a new platform for imagery and storytelling based on the lives and experiences of Pakistani women. Enjoy our interview with Anum and Sarah!
WobistDude: What is Stories By Dolls?
Anum: In my soul searching process, I realised that I have been really sensitive about other people’s pain since I was a little girl. Therefore, my love for dolls, together with my empathy, inspired me to start Stories By Dolls. It is a short story blog that aims to highlight the atrocities and struggles of life that are often considered trivial. For the purpose, I got my friend Sarah involved in the project. I have previously worked with her and I was well aware that she and I share similar views. Plus, she is an amazing writer. I really I love her work.
WBD: The stories that you’ve written deal with interpersonal struggles, personal growth, racism, sexism, religion, loss, career aspirations and a whole bunch of life issues. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Anum: We at Stories By Doll simply observe people around us and their lives. Although it is a work of fiction, most of the stories are inspired by real-life examples.
WBD: Is it fair to say that a strong theme in many of these stories is the life and struggles that Pakistani women have to endure in 2019?
Anum: Absolutely, regardless of what social stratum you look at, these issues are ingrained in the Pakistani society. Unfortunately, they often go unnoticed because they have been normalised.
WBD: Do you find that by using these images and stories, you can talk about issues that are hard to discuss or even bring them in front of an audience who might not have originally been thinking about these things?
Sarah: Yes, since the Pakistani society is highly conservative and patriarchal, issues that involve women’s sexuality, for instance, are seldom discussed openly. When used in stories with striking images, they not only highlight very important issues but also allow people to realise that these are real problems and have to be identified.
WBD: Where do these dolls come from?
Anum: Initially, I started off by utilising my niece’s dolls. However, as more and more ideas started pouring in, I decided to purchase some of my own dolls and start my own collection. I also sew outfits for them myself to go with the stories and chose props and locations to align with the theme. It’s really exciting.
WBD: Could you walk us through your process of creating a piece? From the initial idea of taking the image to write everything down?
Anum: As earlier mentioned, the stories are mostly based on observations so we think about different ideas and pitch them very randomly. However, we have maintained a calendar to stay relevant to the ongoing trends.
Sarah: First, the ideas are pitched and stories are written by us. Once the stories are edited and lined up, Anum dresses up the dolls accordingly and then photographs them. Each story is then uploaded to Instagram and Facebook simultaneously.
WBD: In the age of short, click-bait headlines and even shorter attention spans, why do you think longer form (short) stories like this can thrive and resonate so well with people?
Anum: We think that length is relative. If something is good and interesting, people will definitely read them. So far, we have received an excellent response from the readers. They not only read and like the stories, but they also engage, so it speaks for itself.
WBD: Could you name a writer that you admire and tell us why?
Anum: I think every writer has something unique to offer and has a totally different style that appeals to a specific group of people. However, Paulo Coelho is one inspirational author, whose work I think is quite universal in nature. He has transformed millions of lives across the globe with his creative expressions and a deep understanding of the world.
Sarah: My favourite author is none other than Stephen King. I love his descriptive ability.
WBD: Is there anything planned for the near future that your readers should look out for?
Anum: Yes, we are working on developing characters, based on real women. The stories will focus on one specific issue that women face by observing it from different angles.
WBD: If someone is interested in getting involved or learning more about Stories by Dolls, where can they go?
Anum: You can find Stories By Dolls on Facebook and Instagram. We are also planning to launch a website very soon.
Anum is an art and photography enthusiast based in Karachi, Pakistan.
Sarah is a multimedia journalist and storyteller based in Karachi, Pakistan.