Beyond the storybook
23-year-old visual storyteller, Shilo Shiv Suleman's interactive narrative for children, Khoya, uses new technology � like the iPad, to bring alive a magical experience for children. She tells Fiona Fernandez about her creative pursuits and the need to take the story beyond the book
How did you get hooked on to visual storytelling?
My mum, Nilofer Suleman is an artist and mapmaker. When I was 11, I started to watch her at work. I began to get obsessed with some of the fantasy elements and would recreate them. My early paintings were huge, with an intense palette. By the time I was 16, quite by accident, I wrote a book of poetry for kids. Meanwhile, my blog was always my playing field for writing, travel and photography. Soon, I began to doodle, and art took over my mindset. I realised that the most important thing for me was to start telling my own stories through illustrations. At 18, I was working on one of the Karadi Tales series. I was set — art was to be my calling.
Give our readers a sense of your unique craft.
I am based out of Bangalore. I love to travel, and so the fantasy element is always laced with hills and the mountainscapes around the Nilgiris. I believe that Indian mythology lends itself nicely to my space. While studying at the Srishti School, I had the freedom to explore projects, independently. Khoya was created at the Srishti Toy Lab where I was able to give form to my ideas, thanks to Finnish designers like Anders Sandell, and a bunch of eclectic people around. That’s when my first book about augmented reality for kids came into being. Using QR codes, kids can experiment and experience a range of visual fantasy worlds and still learn so much about our rich mythology. I started alone but today, we are a team that includes my Finnish professor, Sandell who is mentor with his editorial inputs. I am also quite excited about the Kabir Project that I am working on with Shabnam Virmani, which focuses on Sufi love stories across Kutch, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Being half-Hindu and half-Muslim, I am able to see the beauty of both religions. I believe that Sufi combines Vedantic and Islamic traditions with psychology.
What is the role of new children’s storyteller like you?
As a new storyteller, we must inspire archetypes of the old and use it in today’s world. Augmented reality is only the beginning. With Khoya I, we were able to bring magic and technology together. In Khoya II, the mobility aspect of the iPad will combine earth (and elements like solar energy that will harness the earth) along with technology. We need artisans in this digital bazaar — until now interfaces are limited, and the options are very typical. India’s digital market might be two years old but it is ready to take our stories to another level, retaining its fundamental ideas, landscape and characters.