To launch their brand, the Pakistani athleisure company Haraka commissioned me to produce a series of illustrations for The Folktales Collection. The brief was to create illustrations for three t-shirts based on folktales from the subcontinent and to root the imagery in local motifs and patterns. I was also asked to illustrate a shikargah (hunting scene) pattern on tights.
In my research I looked at Mughal miniature art, Persian carpets and tapestries depicting hunting scenes, as well as illustrations from artists like Kay Rasmus Nielsen.
I updated the shikargah, a traditional hunting scene depicted for centuries, by using non-traditional colours for the animals and plants.
The brief for the other illustrations was to focus on strong female characters from Pakistani folktales. The two figures here are the wives of Amir Hamza from the epic oral tale of the subcontinent, Dastan-e-Amir Hamza. On the left is Aasman Peri, princess of the land of Qaf and a fearsome warrior. When Amir Hamza tries to leave her (and their daughter) for the earthly realm, Aasman Peri marches with an army to lay waste to an entire city to win back the man she loves.
On the right is Princess Mehr-Nigar, daughter of Emperor Naushervan of Persia. When the King of India rebels against him, Naushervan’s evil minister who hates Amir Hamza, sees this as an opportunity to be rid of him. Mehr-Nigar’s hand is promised to whoever defeats the King of India and Amir Hamza jumps on the chance. In the midst of all this, Amit Hamza is also called in to quell an uprising of rebellious demons in Qaf where he meets and weds Aasman Peri. Eventually, after an 18 year long stay in Qaf, he returns to wed Mehr-Nigar.
In the story Kupti and Imani, Imani (pictured above) is an intelligent and independent princess who makes her own way in the world. She falls in love with King Subbar Khan from the neighbouring land whom she meets via three strokes of a magic fan she is gifted. Eventually she saves his life after he is poisoned by her jealous sister, Kupti, and the two live happily together in his kingdom.
This woman is from the story The Clever Wife. A king dispatches a Sufi mystic to investigate a woman rumored to be the most clever in all the land. When her husband and three sons are turned to stone for being unable to answer the mystic’s riddles, the woman rescues them by answering the mystic and is rewarded by the king. Each element relates to a riddle the woman’s family was asked to answer and that she eventually solves.