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A New Project by Pakistani Social Critic Swineryy, Supported by U-M Faculty and Students

Sonia Mishra

Students in Stamps Professor Modrak’s wearable art course, Dressing Up and Down, translated Swineryy’s animojis into full-body wearable sculptures or costumes for each character.

Swineryy is a Karachi-based comedian, social critic, and the feminist voice behind animojis that critique conventions in Pakistan. Her main character, the pig, speaks up about his rights and objects to the fact that he is considered forbidden (haram) and not consumed like other animals. With 204,000 followers, Swineryy’s characters have become so popular that they’ve entered the pop culture lexicon across  South Asia. At the Aurat protests for women’s rights and gender, women held banners reading, “I am  Shazia’s daughter,” one of Swineryy’s characters. At the country’s #ClimateStrike demonstrations, young people held posters featuring Swineryy’s alien, asking if humans would be moving there. In  Pakistan, many forms of transgression, particularly by women, are met with violence; outspoken women critics risk violating defamation and blasphemy laws. Swineryy’s anonymity allows her to speak safely. 

The Arts + the Curriculum Grant supported a residency with Swineryy and the creation of her ambitious music video, titled Dam Ka Qeema, with the construction of full-body costumes for actors to interact within a set of digital environments. Working with Swineryy on this project exposed U-M students to  Pakistani politics, culture, and activism through creative processes. We offered Swineryy our expertise in costume fabrication, digital visualization technologies, and access to the Video Studio and the Digital  Media Commons Production Team in the Duderstadt.

Students in Stamps Professor Modrak’s wearable art course, Dressing Up and Down, translated  Swineryy’s animojis into full-body wearable sculptures or costumes for each character. Film, TV, and  Media Professor Yvette Granata and her Virtual Reality students created digital backgrounds or environments for the set. Each student worked on their background within a team with a specific theme, such as ‘streets’ or ‘the market.’ The Digital Media Commons’ “Virtual Production” setup allowed us to project these VFX/digital backgrounds and track them alongside the live actor with the proper camera perspective. Instead of using a green screen, we were able to project a digital environment onto the large, curved screens in the Video Studio for the live actor to reference while filming. The live actor could interact with the projected environment, walk around “in” the digital environment, and automatic perspective corrections made it look like they were inhabiting this digital world as a camera recorded it. Swineryy joined us for a week on the set to direct Lina  Aunty, Blue Molvi Saab, Pig, Baby Pig, and Smolvi in the production. 

Swineryy, Statement about Dam Ka Qeema 

Comedian Swineryy’s music video, Dam Ka Qeema, is a satirical commentary exploring societal dynamics, conditioning, and individual resilience through the lens of a pig’s journey in Pakistan. Through a blend of live-action footage, animation, music, humor, and verse, Swineryy crags a narrative that delves into the complexities of identity, courage, and politics. 

The title Dam Ka Qeema carries layers of meaning, alluding to a Pakistani minced-meat dish and the  Urdu words “Dam,” signifying courage, and ‘Qeema,’ which refers to minced meat. Dam Ka  Qeema implies the crushing or mincing of one’s guts. At its core, the video serves as a metaphor for the plight of marginalized individuals. The pig symbolizes those who exist on the fringes. However, the film simultaneously highlights the mental state of the oppressor – and the reasons (such as poverty) that cause them to go there in the first place. The pig is simply an easy and almost necessary target or  distraction for the aggressor to function. In this way, they are marginalized as well. In this way,  we are all the pig.  

Central to the narrative is the portrayal of Western interference, depicted through a scene of drone strikes and military intervention. Swineryy shows the hypocrisy of foreign powers who claim to champion freedom and democracy while knowingly perpetuating violence and instability in pursuit of their interests. The video highlights how these interventions only serve to exacerbate existing inequalities further, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and oppression. 

Swineryy showcases the resilience of the pig protagonist, who refuses to be subdued despite being shunned and threatened. The dance between Blue Molvi Sahab and the pig serves as another metaphor  – the characters fighting for a cause who are puppets manipulated by external aliens, highlighting the illusion of autonomy and agency on an individual level.