Posted by: Len

Thanks to our friend Shams for calling this article about our co-producer Catherine Masud to our attention.  It is from the English Language Dhaka Daily Star.  It’s a great piece about a truly talented and courageous person.  Thank you, Catherine, for everything that you do.

Posted by: Len

We are very excited to be a few days away from what should be the last filming session for Threads: The Art and Life of Surayia Rahman.  The site scouting has been done, the brilliant field producer and crew are ready. We really appreciate all of the support and help that people are providing.

If you would like to join us in this effort and help to wrap up the production of Threads, please read this letter to the supporters of the film, or go directly to the International Documentary Association and make a donation.

Thanks to everyone for your help!

Posted by:  Cathy and Len
One of the fascinating stories that Surayia has told us is about Sarah, from Iowa, USA.  Sarah was staying in Dhaka while her husband worked on a contract to build grain elevators in the late 1960s in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).  Sarah appreciated Surayia’s painted ceramics and silk scrolls which she discovered at the shop of the Women’s Voluntary Association in Dhaka.
A scroll painting by Surayia Rahman:  Water Carriers.  Photo courtesy of: F. Rigon

A scroll painting by Surayia Rahman: Water Carriers. Photo courtesy of F. Rigon

Sarah would send her driver to pick Surayia up and bring her to the hotel where she was staying, and over time they became friends.  Sarah was particularly interested in Surayia’s hand-painted silk scrolls that showed lives of village women collecting water in pots at the riverside.   She asked Surayia to make scroll paintings to be sold at the museum shop of the Des Moines Art Center.  To this day, Surayia can recite the address in Des Moines where she mailed the scroll paintings – such an important memory this was!  The money she received for the paintings came at a critical time: Surayia was struggling as the breadwinner of her young family.  As she tells us: “I built my house with that scroll money.”

Through research and luck we were able to find Sarah’s son, and to tell him about how his mother had helped an artist from a distant country.

We were pleasantly surprised recently to hear from several Iowans who had learned of Surayia from Sarah’s son and were interested in visiting her while they were on a trip to Dhaka.  We put them together, and they had an opportunity to meet and talk.  Surayia always enjoys opportunities to re-connect with people from her past and to have a chance to think back on her days of painting.   Despite her many hardships, art connected and uplifted her.

Surayia’s art is now found in many private collections and museums throughout the world.   But, forty years ago, when Sarah reached out to Surayia in friendship and recognized talent when opportunities for women artists were few … it changed Surayia’s world.  Surayia then went on to share her skills with others, creating ways for young women to help themselves and their families to a much better future.

Do you have a story of threads of connection between Iowa and Bangladesh? 

Surayia with visitors.  Photo used with permission.

Surayia with visitors. Photo used with permission.

Guest Post by: Geethi

The following is an excerpt from an essay written by Surayia’s great-grand daughter, Geethi.  

Happy International Day of the Girl!

At the end of the alley, a tiny one-room house stands its own ground among smoke-spewing garment factories that tower over it. If you look out of any of its blackened windows, you don’t see the sky; only monstrous buildings with flickering lights and the hum of a million sewing machines running all day and night. From this house, Chiya Nanu created tapestries that changed the lives of hundreds of underprivileged women in Bangladesh. Her silk tapestries hang in museums and private collections around the world, and were even presented as state gifts.

The time I have spent with her has been precious and inspiring. As I remember the countless stories she has shared with me – such as the one about how her name “Surayia” turning to “Chiya” when my grandmother couldn’t pronounce it as a child, or part of her childhood spent in a seemingly utopian West Bengal village called Bankura – I feel more connected to Chiya Nanu’s tapestries and oil paintings hanging in our home. Today, not only do I know where I am headed, but more importantly, why.

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 — $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

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

Thank you!