About the Grant

$28,000 to support The Thumbprint of Mukhtar Mai (MAP 2012), a new chamber opera by playwright/librettist Susan Yankowitz and composer Kamala Sankaram.

About the Project

The Thumprint of Mukhtar Mai is a 90-minute chamber opera by playwright and librettist Susan Yankowitz and composer Kamala Sankaram. It is based on the story of Mukhtar Mai, a young peasant who was gang-raped as an “honor” crime and became the first woman in Pakistan to bring her rapists to justice. This event, at the center of this opera, is the catalyst for Mukhtar’s transformation from an illiterate woman unaware that her country had a constitution, to an international voice for human rights. Her story movingly dramatizes the reality that one individual, in a single act of courage, can change life for thousands.

The libretto is based on a monologue of the same name, written by Yankowitz, from interviews with Mukhtar. Pieces of that monologue were braided into a larger play called Seven, which has been presented throughout the world. Some of its most ardent supporters have been Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep, Diane von Furstenburg, Nicholas Kristof, and the Vital Voices Global Partnership.
Musically, the piece integrates Eastern and Western instruments, vocal techniques, or namentations, and a cast of seven vocalists singing in a variety of classical Western and Asian vocal styles. This blending is ideally suited to Sankaram’s talents and background as an Indian-American. It will draw from Hindustani music, European opera, classical Indian ragas, and from world folk music. The Thumprint of Mukhtar Mai will be a true fusion opera in which subject, theme, and music are inevitably wedded.


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