When Saris Speak (The Mother) – Part I of Migritude, An Epic Journey in Four Movements – by Shailja Patel

Synopsis: 90-minute spoken-word theatre show
Written, produced, and performed by Shailja Patel
Directed by Kim Cook, Choreography by Parijat Desai  www.parijatdesai.org

90-minute spoken-word theatre show. Uses artist’s trousseau of saris, passed down by her mother, to unfold hidden histories of women’s lives in the bootprint of Empire, from India to East Africa. Text consists of 14 sections, divided into two acts.

Setting: Kenya, UK, USA
Time Period: Act I: 1972 – 1990   Act II: 1990 – 2004
Cast Size: 2
Artist (playwright – performer)

Design Needs:

Lavalier mic. Sound settings should have slight reverb on mic to make voice rounder and with an emphasis on mids and lows, not too bright on highs. Please spike location on stage where lav sound drops out, so artist does not step into that area.

Artist will supply CD with sound cues

Lighting plot available on request

Props/ Set
One chair, with back.
One small table.
Hanging line stretched across back of stage, at height of approximately 6 feet.

This Play Is: published

Production History:

Co-commissioned by US National Performance Network Creation Fund, La
Pena Cultural Center (Berkeley), Asian Improv Arts (San Francisco),
and the University of California Merced Art Center Without Walls. NPN
Creation Fund sponsored by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Other funders: City of Oakland (CA) Cultural Funding Program, East Bay
Community Foundation, Zellerbach Family Foundation, William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation, Destiny Arts.

Presented at World Social Forum, Nairobi –  prolonged standing ovation
3-week fully-staged Kenya tour (Nairobi, Mombasa), funded by Ford Foundation
Excerpts toured in 8 cities / towns in Italy, including Florence and Rome
Featured on SPARK! Arts and Culture Programme of KQED TV, in its
Season Premiere: Patel, Ferlinghetti, and Guidi

DVD screening of show at British Council, Nairobi
Fully staged show, ODC Theatre, San Francisco
World Premiere, La Pena Cultural Center, Berkeley, CA
University of California Merced Art Center Without Walls, Work-in-Progress
Oakland Museum of California, Script Premiere Staged Reading
Zanzibar International Film Festival, Work-in-Progress Performance
Un Po di Gange Arts Festival, Italy, Work-in-Progress Performance
International Women Art Festival, Vienna, Work-in-Progress Performance
Kwani Trust, Nairobi, Work-in-Progress Performance
SALAAM Theatre, New York, Work-in-Progress Performance

Review Quotes:

“exemplifies globalization as a people-centered phenomenon of
migration and exchange”
- CNN Traveller

“What Arundhati Roy is to imperialism/fascism/racism in prose, Patel
is to them in poetry.”
- The Gulf Today (United Arab Emirates)

“brings out what it means to be a woman in an empire”
- San Francisco Chronicle

“one-woman poetic explosion”
- SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation)

“sets her audience on a collision course with what they know and how they learned it. Stunning and politically charged theatre that will leave you moved, awakened, angry…inspired.”
- Daily Nation, Kenya

“Acting….that wakes you like the shock of cold water. Theatre that is hilarious, beautiful, heartbreaking. Shailja is a powerful cantor of our Kenyan being.”
- Coastweek (Kenya)

“powerful and eloquent – pitch perfect work.”
- Oakland Tribune

“a voice of history”
- Merced Sun-Star

“nothing short of electric… the sort of theatre experience that grows ever more luminescent in memory”
- India West

“powerful inspired spoken word”
- Asian Week

“mind blowing and thought provoking”
- East African Standard

“defiant and courageous master of the spoken word”
- Daily Nation (Kenya)


Shortlisted for Premio Lettarario Camaiore (Italy)
African Guest Writer Fellowship, Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden
Indian American Women Empowered â  National Award for Arts and Creativity
Ford Foundation Award
East Bay Community Foundation Grant
National Performance Network Creation Fund Award
City of Oakland Individual Artist Grant
Zellerbach Foundation Grant
Lambda Literary Festival National Slam Champion
Serpent Source Foundation For Women Artists Grant
Voices Of Our Nations Arts Foundation Poetry Award
Outwrite Poetry Award, New York Lesbian and Gay Center

Residencies at University of California, Santa Barbara; University of California, Merced; Nordic Africa Institute, Sweden

10 page sample pdf

1 comment to When Saris Speak (The Mother) – Part I of Migritude, An Epic Journey in Four Movements – by Shailja Patel

  • Neelu Chawla

    Hello Shailja,

    I’d love to read your play or see a performance of it. Do you have a copy to share or where can I get a copy in print or a video of your performance?

    I’m a family therapist completing my PhD at Purdue University and I often have my students read contemporary poetry and look at (performance) art to understand this vast thing we call human nature/experience.


You must be logged in to post a comment.