The Archival Sound Recordings team was recently graced by a visit from Ismail Choonara, one of whose plays, ‘Cages’, is featured in the African Writers’ Club section of the site. Ismail didn’t know that a recording of the play even existed until his son pointed him to the site earlier this year.
Ismail was born in South Africa but left in the 1950s to study science at London University. After graduation, he lectured in science education and wrote poetry, plays and stories – many of which were published in the UK, America, South Africa and particularly India.
Asked about the Archival Sound Recordings project, Ismail said: “Immediately after something has happened people are not always interested in it. But after the passage of time, cultural work provides a useful historical recording of a particular period. I hope that new, young writers will use my piece when they are carrying out research.”
Now retired from lecturing, Ismail has recently staged a successful play in five Indian cities about the final incarceration in Agra Fort of the 17th-century Mughul emperor Shah Jahan – the man who built the Taj Mahal. A second play, ‘Prashan Chinn?’, about the riots in Gujurat in 2002, recently opened in Kolkata. A third play is in pre-production in India.
Before leaving the Sound Archive, Ismail donated a recording of his play Incident at Okari-oba.