Picture Lock!

Posted by:  Cathy and Len

Threads has reached a major milestone, picture lock.  We’ve finished editing and changes to the film’s story line.  Now we’re moving to the final but crucial part of post-production:  final music, color correction, sound mix, and making the masters for future copies of the film.  So there is still a lot to do, but the time when we can begin showing the finished version of Threads to you and the world is in sight.

We are thankful to everyone who has supported Threads over nearly five years.  Your help and encouragement has carried us this far and will get us across the finish line!

You can find the film finishing campaign at this link. Some of the friends of Threads tell why they have supported the project.  Please share this link with people who are interested in a film that tells the stories of unconventional women who followed a different path to economic self-sufficiency and that challenges some common views of Bangladesh.  There will be more stories from friends of the film in future posts.

“Threads” coming to Vancouver, BC

Posted by:  Cathy

I am very honored to be presenting “Threads: the Art and Life of Surayia Rahman” at the Maiwa Textile Symposium, September 25 at 7:45PM on Granville Island, Vancouver, BC!  The Maiwa Symposium is an amazing series of workshops, lectures and events hosted each year by Maiwa Handprints.  I have long admired the work of Maiwa’s Charlotte Kwon, and her devotion to textile art and artisans.

Registration for the Maiwa Symposium begins on June 23.  I’ll be sure to post a reminder, and would love to see friends there.

Also in September,  I will be jointly presenting a paper on “Surayia Rahman: The Refining of a Domestic Art”  at the Textile Society of America Symposium, “New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future,”  in Los Angeles with Professor Niaz Zaman of Bangladesh, one of the foremost authorities on nakshi kantha.  Niaz has known Surayia for many years and has been a strong supporter of the documentary film project from the beginning.  Niaz will follow her TSA presentation with ones in Seattle and San Francisco on other topics related to nakshi kantha.

Mothers’ Day newsletter

Posted by Cathy and Len

Here is our latest newsletter, a Mothers’ Day tribute.  You can subscribe to the quarterly updates from Threads by going to the website and adding your name to our mailing list.  We do not sell or share our information.

Destined to Meet

Guest post by:  Julia Brennan

Woman embroidering kantha.  Surayia Rahman design.  Photo used with permission.

Woman embroidering kantha. Surayia Rahman design. Photo used with permission.

SURAYIA AND BARBARA — CONNECTIONS PAST AND PRESENT

I was busy chatting at a conference in 2012, when I was tapped on the shoulder and   introduced to a woman who had recently lived in Bangladesh, and was making a film about Surayia Rahman.  Was it possible, that the woman spoke of our Surayia?  The painter, the embroiderer of poems, that elegant and stoic woman who became a dear friend of my mother’s in the 1970′s. Indeed, my mother’s Surayia.  Hamdullah.  How life works with small mysteries.  Surayia, now in her 80′s, was in fact sending me a message.

My mother Barbara, lived in Dhaka in the early 1970′s, just after independence and a tragic destructive cyclone. I’ve no idea where Barbara and Surayia met, but it was a powerful and committed relationship. My mother deeply admired Surayia’s strength and dignity to support her family.  Her struggle to affirm herself as an artist, and proudly display or show her paintings. Surely they discussed Surayia’s transition to stitching storytelling cloths and providing cooperative support for other Bengali women.  Surayia found in my mother a safe haven, an intellectual equal, and a sense of humor and the irreverent.  I know they spent many afternoons at Barbara’s house, and they shared a love of poetry, and music, with Surayia introducing Barbara to Jasim Uddin’s epic poems.  Barbara gave Surayia steady reliable support, courage to create her art, and was a best friend to relax and talk to about the artistic energy of Calcutta, the tradition of Bengali kantha cloths, the rollicking politics of the day, and surely their children.  In fact, Surayia’s daughter, Sophia, herself painted an alpona for my sister Adik, which she still has.

Alpona painted by Surayia Rahman.  Photo used with permission.

Alpona painted by Surayia Rahman. Photo used with permission.

They were soul mates, and my mother stayed in touch with Surayia over the following 30 years, as she moved to Nepal, Paris, Mali and Washington, DC.  Surayia came to visit Barbara several times, both in Nepal and Washington, DC.  While I didn’t know Surayia well, as I was away at school or working, I heard about Surayia my whole life. She was a giant figure in my mother’s pantheon of loved ones.

When Surayia visited Barbara in Washington, she brought with her several small elegant embroidered pictures as gifts for my sister and me. Seen in the photos, they are miniatures or vignettes from her full story-telling nakshi kanthas. My favorite is the young girl, sari pulled slightly over her head, arm raised as she pulls the embroidery thread of her kantha. It is a kantha within a kantha, and it hangs in my textile conservation studio in Washington, an affirmation of my career and daily handwork. The other two are typically Bengali; a mythical bird and the often seen wide-sailed boats on the river.

Mythical bird.  Surayia Rahman design.  Photo used with permission.

Mythical bird. Surayia Rahman design. Photo used with permission.

Traditional Boat.  Surayia Rahman design.  Photo used with permission.

Traditional Boat. Surayia Rahman design. Photo used with permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1995 Barbara and Surayia met in Toronto, enjoying the grand children, the freedom of walking anywhere anytime, and catching up. It would be the last visit, as my mother died in 2000.  But daily I am reminded of their relationship, the beauty of Surayia’s kanthas, and the courage of two women who were destined to meet each other. It is a testament to Surayia’s magnitude as a living artistic treasure of Bangladesh that this film is being made about her. 

Surayia and Barbara in Toronto.  Photo used with permission.

Surayia and Barbara in Toronto. Photo used with permission.

 

Celebrate International Women’s Day!

Posted by:  Cathy and Len

Celebrate International Women’s Day!

Surayia and women of "Arshi."  Photo copyright by Anil Advani and Kantha Productions LLC.

Surayia and women of “Arshi.” Photo copyright by Anil Advani and Kantha Productions LLC.

Inspiration. Determination. Liberation.

March 8th is international women’s day. To celebrate with us today, pass along the story of Surayia and women of Bangladesh by liking Threads on Facebook or sharing the Threads website with friends and colleagues.

There are so many incredible stories to share.  Who inspires you?
Please tell us about Women of Inspiration around the world.

"Rain Making Ladies."  Surayia Rahman design, used with permission of the owner.  Photo copyright Anil Advani andKkantha Productions LLC.

“Rain Making Ladies.” Surayia Rahman design, used with permission of the owner. Photo copyright Anil Advani and Kantha Productions LLC.

Visiting Surayia and Arshi Salesian

Guest post by:  Donna Spisso

Donna and Surayia.  Photo used with permission.

Donna and Surayia. Photo used with permission.

My husband and I traveled to Dhaka to attend a wedding. I knew I would not miss the opportunity to visit Surayia Rahman, with whom I had the pleasure to know while I lived and worked in Dhaka as a teacher at the American International School 1994-2001. In those days, Surayia’s work was sold through expatriate volunteers. One of the elementary teachers, Phyllis, made part of her house available for shoppers two afternoons a week. When Phyllis asked if I would like to volunteer, I agreed and thus began a beautiful friendship that I treasure to this day.

I thoroughly enjoyed showcasing the work and learning about Surayia’s art. Helping with the exhibitions, held biannually, was also a lot of fun. Surayia and the women she had trained to embroider would demonstrate the techniques, and people loved meeting and chatting with the artist, who was always gracious, full of anecdotes and passion about her work. Eventually, I took over the responsibility of insuring that Surayia’s art would continue to have a market. Since she retired, she turned her designs over to the Salesian Sisters. I visited the Salesian convent where I bought a tapestry for a wedding present, happy to see that the quality was very much the same as I remembered. Then I made my way to Surayia’s home and spent a lovely hour with her, reminiscing about old times.
Displaying completed artwork based on Surayia's designs at the Salesian convent.  Photo used with permission.

Displaying completed artwork based on Surayia’s designs at the Salesian convent. Photo used with permission.

Watch the Threads trailer on YouTube

Posted by: Len

I have just finished setting up a YouTube channel for Threads.   You can find the film trailer here.  Please watch and give us a “Like.”  I will start displaying the statistics soon.

The material that we post on YouTube will always be the same as that posted on Vimeo.  Adding YouTube gives our viewers an additional way to find us!  Enjoy.

 

 

Surayia’s Art in Toronto

Posted by:  Cathy and Len

The Textile Museum of Canada  in Toronto has an exhibition, “Telling Stories,” that includes one of Surayia’s works, Georgian Times.  Curated by Roxanne Shaughnessy, the exhibition will run until mid-April, 2014, so please go see it if you are in the area.  You can view an image of Georgian Times from the Textile Museum’s collection at this link.

Here’s the description from the Museum’s website:

“The art of storytelling extends beyond the written word, encompassing a myriad of forms. Whether through the illustration of a myth or legend, or the recitation of an epic poem or song, cultures have devised inventive and elaborate methods of recording and depicting their rich histories through the centuries. In this exhibition of artifacts from the permanent collection of the Textile Museum of Canada, textiles perform as instruments of communication, offering narratives that unfold in the making and materiality of each textile. …. Telling Stories presents extraordinary materials of everyday lives that reflect the inordinate richness of cultural histories as well as the human impulse to capture real and imagined experiences.”

Thank you, Roxanne, for a beautiful and timely exhibition.

 

 

Give Together to Celebrate Women and Girls

Posted by:  Cathy and Len

Surayia and women of "Arshi."

Countdown to filming!   Help us to complete the final three days of film shooting in Bangladesh for the inspiring Threads story.

Women artisans, once destitute young mothers, have supported their families over the past twenty-five years, stitch by stitch, by creating exquisite embroidered tapestries depicting social and historical stories of their time. Crossing rivers during floods, riding for hours in rusted buses over muddy roads, these women came together to learn their craft and to work.

Just as each stitch has made a difference in their lives, so every donation you make – small or large – will help us complete the film that celebrates their many accomplishments.

These women are going beyond embroidering visionary art together. They are

  • educating their children,
  • purchasing land,
  • continuing to teach others to make their own livelihoods,
  • and keeping their traditions alive.

Against many odds, they are taking their lives into their own hands and creating a better future for the next generation.

We need your help to raise a total of $3,400  for 3 final days of shooting to complete this phase of the documentary.

We already raised $1400 in one week to celebrate International Day of the Girl on October 11th — and donations are still coming in!    Thank you SO much!  We want to start the shoot at the end of October and we still need to raise $2000.

Make a tax deductible donation to Threads through International Documentary Association now http://documentary.org/fsp/3732 — $20, $50, $100, whatever you can afford (trust us, each donation makes a difference!) — and celebrate women and girls by helping bring voice to the stories of these amazing women of Bangladesh and inspiring countless other women and girls around the world.

Read more about the amazing story of the women in Bangladesh at http://kanthathreads.com

It would be great if you would share the story with your friends, too.

Thank you!

Lawyers and rhinos

Posted by:  Cathy and Len

How many lawyers and rhinos are there in Surayia’s work “The Raj?”  The answer is:  One … and two, depending on when the piece was designed.

The original "Raj" with one lawyer.

The original “Raj” with one lawyer.

In recent weeks we have had several fascinating conversations with Andreas, a friend of Surayia’s who encouraged her to design a nakshi kantha tapestry based on her experience as a witness to the last days of British rule in Calcutta.  Surayia mentioned Andreas to us some months ago, saying that we should get in touch with him.  Asked where he was and how to contact him, she said: “Oh it shouldn’t be hard to find him, he’s a German man.  Ask in Germany.  He gave me a leather book once.  Ask at the bookshops, they will know his address.”   Fortunately for us, an internet search turned up contact information for a man who seemed to be a match, and an e-mail to him asking if he might be the person Surayia mentioned brought a quick and gracious reply.

 

The updated "Raj" with a second lawyer.

The updated “Raj” with a second lawyer.

Surayia tells us that, when she was encouraged by Andreas to design the tapestry that she called “The Raj,” it had a hunting scene with one rhinoceros, and a courtroom scene with one lawyer.  This design was produced under the auspices of the Skills Development for Underprivileged Women project.  Surayia later was let go from SDUW.  The project retained her original designs and applied to the Copyright Board for ownership.  When some of the women from the Skills Development project came to ask her to help them, Surayia formed her own organization Arshi, and needed to re-create the designs.  With the copyright proceedings looming, Surayia tells us that she was advised to make her designs with a difference.  So … the single rhino is the hunting scene became two rhinos.  And the single lawyer in the courtroom gained a colleague.  As she tells us in one of the interviews that Mishuk Munier filmed in Dhaka:  “I never saw a courtroom before but I did a perfect courtroom scene, with two lawyers.”

For thirty years and continuing today, Surayia’s designs in both versions are the center of livelihoods for many artisans of Bangladesh.    The Threads film is a story that goes well beyond ‘one’ or ‘two’…it is a story of how one person, with creativity and sharing skills, can impact the lives of communities for generations.   The artwork is not the only legacy; it is the children who are schooled, the women who are empowered to buy their own land, and those who are teaching others to stitch beauty for a future.

"Raj" with one rhino.

“Raj” with one rhino.

"Raj" with two rhinos.

“Raj” with two rhinos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos by Tino Sieland.  Used with kind permission of the owner.