This is Halwapur. My city, my home. A tragic incident left me orphaned as a child. A kind man and his wife gave me a loving home. He became my mentor and he taught me the ancient art of Takht Kabaddi. The art of fighting with pens, books and advanced acrobatics. Now, I use my powers for good. I stand for justice, peace and education for all. I fight against the forces of tyranny and ignorance. Because I am…. Burka Avenger!
I am so excited to share news of Pakistan’s latest super hero! For a country that is always in the news for all the wrong reasons, Burka Avenger gives every Pakistani a reason to smile. Joining the League of Justice and Captain Planet is The Lady in Black aka Burka Avenger who fights for social justice. The newest animated series to hit popular television series centers around the Burka Avenger who fights villains threatening to shut down the local girls school in the imaginary city of Halwapur. Given the abysmal state of public education in Pakistan, the Burka Avenger is exactly the kind of superhero Pakistan needs.
The central character Jiya is a mild-mannered teacher in a government school by day and becomes the Burka Avenger at night. She is helped by her sidekicks – 3 students Ashu, a budding student in the school Jiya teaches at her twin brother Immu and their best friend Mooli. Her arch enemy is Baba Bandook whose name can be translated to mean ‘the man of guns’ is an illusionist who wants to gain control of the city of Halwapur. He is threatened by schools and education as increasing awareness will render his magical powers and mystery irrelevant. He often teams up with Vadero Pajero a scheming and corrupt politician who is also the mayor of Halwapur. Vadera means landlord and Pajero is the car that feudal lords most often drive so Vadero Pajero is an extremely apt name.
The Burka Avenger is inspiring for several reasons. For one, it takes the burka traditionally a symbol of oppression and flips it on its head. The burka is what empowers her and its transforms her into her alter-identity of a crime fighting super hero. Her burka is sleek, and ninja-esque – perhaps inspired by Iran’s kunoichi ninjas – while the flare of her burka is like a cape which helps her to fly when needed. Her weapons are not guns or swords, but pens and books reinforcing the education is the most effective weapon in the fight against social injustice. The show is contextualized and peppered with local nuances. The city of Halwapur can represent any city in Pakistan. The villains in the show are emblematic of the major problems in Pakistan – a lack of education and general awareness coupled with corruption and an inept political system. The views expressed by the villains are backward and oppressive as their main goal is to shut down the girls school. The best part is that a woman, a female teacher, the Burka Avenger is presented as the solution of the problem. Jiya is a modern, progressive teacher at the local girls school and only dons the burka when she is fighting crime. This is women’s empowerment using all the local symbols, contextualized to have the maximum impact at its best!
This burka wearing, pen wielding, book throwing crime fighter gives Pakistanis a lot to be proud of ! It is a great example of challenging societal norms using symbols that are easy to relate to and yet unique in the way that they are employed in the show. Here’s the first episode of Burka Avenger with translations. Don’t mess with the lady in black! Enjoy and be inspired.