Last chance to see “Telling Stories” in Toronto

Posted by:  Cathy
“Telling Stories,” an exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada (TMC), features a work designed by Surayia Rahman and embroidered by artisans of Arshi in Bangladesh.  This link shows the range of textile art featured in “Telling Stories,” which will be closing January 25thThis link takes you to Surayia’s work in the Textile Museum, a piece called “Georgian Times,” based on her experiences of life in the last days of the British Raj.  The intricate embroidered stories include tea harvesting, shown in a detail (below) from the TMC website.
If you will be in Toronto before January 25, don’t miss this opportunity to see Surayia’s work on view with other fascinating storytelling textiles.
Tea Harvesting, detail from "Georgian Times." Surayia Rahman design. Photo by Textile Museum of Canada.

Tea Harvesting, detail from “Georgian Times.” Surayia Rahman design. Photo by Textile Museum of Canada.

Color and Beauty for the New Year!

Posted by:  Cathy and Len

Happy New Year, everyone!  Here is the latest Threads newsletter.  You can get a copy as soon as it comes out by subscribing at our website: kanthathreads.com.  Thanks to Anil Advani and Rita Meher for the photos.

Mustard field, photo by Anil AdvaniMay you find color and beauty in each day of the New Year

What an extraordinary year!  As 2014 comes to a close, we send our thanks and good wishes to you and other supporters of Threads around the world.  With your help and the dedication of our film team, we completed and launched Threads!

Threads recently screened for the first time at a film festival and won the Audience Choice Award for Best Short Documentary.  We are very pleased with the positive response that this inspiring story is receiving and we look forward to bringing it to diverse audiences in many countries.

We anticipate an exciting year ahead for Threads.  Our top priority is to find sponsors for a trip to Bangladesh to show the finished film to the resilient women who are in it and to screen the film as widely as possible in Bangladesh.  We are also applying to film festivals worldwide.  Getting into festivals is an exciting opportunity to have the film seen by more and more people, including critics and distributors, but it is also a lot of work: we will need to prepare exhibition copies of Threads, create press materials, and refresh the website.

As we continue work on this project, we speak with Surayia regularly and update her on our progress.  She has seen an earlier cut of the film, and we hope that the day will soon come when she can see the finished version of Threadswith her family and friends.

We wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful 2015 and hope to see you at a screening of Threads soon.  We will keep you updated on screenings through our newsletter and website.   We are always happy to hear your ideas , so please keep in touch and tell your friends about Threads.

Cathy and Len, photo by Rita Meher
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Email Leonardwww.kanthathreads.com

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Threads has come this far with your support.   Thank you!  Just think what we can do together in 2015.   Please help us to bring Threads story to audiences around the world.

A wonderful evening at MAIWA

Posted by: Cathy

It was an honor and a pleasure to show Threads and answer questions about the film at the MAIWA Symposium in Vancouver, BC, recently.  I was particularly happy that a number of people who know Surayia or helped with filming in Canada could attend.

Here’s a review of the event on the MAIWA blog.  Thank you!

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

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

 

UPDATE — Threads news: first film festival screening!

Posted by: Cathy and Len

We are very pleased to announce that Threads is finished and will have its first festival screening at our hometown Gig Harbor Film Festival.  Mark your calendars:  Saturday, October 18 at 12:55 PM at the Galaxy Theater in Uptown Gig Harbor.  Tickets are available at the GHFF office next door to the theater, and online at Eventbrite.  We will be there to answer questions after the film.

The Gig Harbor Film Festival is a wonderful community event that has been growing each year.  Volunteers are the backbone of the GHFF, and we are proud to be part of the volunteer team.

Many, many thanks to everyone who has helped to make this day possible.  A huge thank you to our donors:  friends, family and total strangers who contributed time, photos, advice, and money to this project.  We look forward to showing you the film.  And of course we could not have done anything without the constant support of Surayia Rahman and her children and grandchildren.

Keep checking back for updates on additional screenings of Threads.

GHFF 2014 Laurel gold- official selection

 

 

 

 

 

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.