Siramdam, an Ismaili woman from Gilgit, interviewed at her home in Zulfiqarabad, Gilgit, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, in August 2022. Image credit: Hassan Ali Shah.
Oral history helps us to capture the memories, stories and experiences of people who have heard about, witnessed and participated in events of significance in their contemporary history. Oral history in the digital age has become more efficient in the collection, curation and dissemination of human voices and other connected heritage material using a variety of media.
ISCU’s Oral History Project seeks to preserve the history of significant events and social changes, as well as the intangible cultural heritage—such as oral traditions, devotional literature, languages, performing arts, rituals, festivals, and indigenous arts and crafts—of the diverse Ismaili communities around the world. The main goal is to capture and present the geographical, linguistic, and historical diversity of these communities.
Preserving oral history as part of the intangible heritage of Ismaili communities is crucial to create a record of the past for academia and future generations.
A young Dr Farouk Topan (fourth from left), one of the founding faculty members of the IIS and Professor Emeritus of the Aga Khan University, standing with the members of the managing committee of His Highness Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Youth League in Zanzibar. The photo was taken on 28 February 1957 after a literary meeting. Dr Topan was interviewed for the Oral History Project in April 2022. Image credit: Dr Farouk Topan.
Islamuddin (widely known as Khalifa Maseeh), 97, in Duikar Valley, Altit Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. He was interviewed for the project in September 2022. Image Credit: Karamat Ali.
Sadruddin Fattoum from Syria, an alumnus of the IIS’s class of 1987 Waezeen Training and Education Programme, now a scholar based in the UK, being interviewed at the Ismaili Centre, London, in November 2022 by Rizwan Karim, the IIS’s Oral History Coordinator. Image credit: Urooj.
In addition to recorded oral history interviews, the team are developing a web-based portal to receive and present stories in text and audiovisual forms from communities with digital access. This portal will provide an opportunity for people to share their stories and memorabilia in written, spoken or self-recorded forms.