What is Qissa?

Qissa is a story. It is the encapsulation of a community’s history, philosophy, sensibilities, culture, and politics expressed through stories, legends and fables. Qissa is also an escape from this reality. Sitting around a qissa khawan – a storyteller – a community emerged, brought together by the power of narrative, the power of qissa. The word qissa is an expression of the rich culture of South Asia, a culture of storytelling, a culture of oral tradition.

Photo Credit: Haroon Khalid

What do we do?

We believe in the power of storytelling. We believe that storytelling lays the foundation of an empathetic and just society. We believe that when people tell their own stories, in their own words, it can be an empowering experience. We believe that even though all of us have our own individual journeys, our unique paths, our stories connect us; they bring us together.

At Qissa we document oral histories of immigrants who have come from different parts of the world and settled in Canada. Together, we explore how these stories travel from one generation to another, from one place to another – stories of connection, stories of rupture, stories untold.

Qissa works towards archiving and sharing these stories through exhibitions, writing and other artistic mediums, with the goal of setting up an interactive museum. Stories of immigrants are an integral part of the story of Canada. Immigrants have to be the ones telling these stories.

Photo Credit: Rida Arif

Who are we?

Qissa is co-founded by authors Anam Zakaria and Haroon Khalid.

Anam Zakaria is an oral historian, author and development professional. She has authored three books that use oral histories to document people’s experiences in South Asia and has won the 2017 KLF-German Peace Prize. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Al Jazeera, Hill Times, TheWire.in, Scroll.in and Dawn.com and has inspired a theatre and an upcoming film performance. Anam has also served as a mentor and instructor for the University of Iowa’s Summer Institute, International Writing Program, working with young writers from India, Pakistan and the U.S. focusing on the power of narrative. She currently lives and works in Toronto.

Haroon Khalid is an author, journalist and educator. He has authored five books, including the bestseller Walking with Nanak. His books document, among other things, the oral and folk traditions of South Asia and have also inspired a theatre and an upcoming film performance. His work has been featured in Al Jazeera, HuffPost, Forbes, TRT World, Scroll.in and Dawn.com. He currently lives and works in Toronto.