About Nakshi Kantha

The kantha is an indigenous quilt, made in Bangladesh and West Bengal traditionally from old saris, dhotis and lungis.

Surayia’s Art

Surayia’s exquisite art was produced in Bangladesh and found its way into the collections of many individuals and institutions throughout the world.

Women Artisans

Women artisans, once destitute young mothers, have supported their families over the past 30 years, stitch by stitch.

“The kantha (pronounced variously kantha, kaentha, ketha, kheta) is an indigenous quilt, made in Bangladesh and West Bengal traditionally from old saris, dhotis and lungis. Everyday kanthas are used as coverlets, wrappers for books, clothes, and other articles.  For special occasions, kanthas are embroidered with scenes from legends, folktales, contemporary life, religious, floral, and symbolic motifs, border patterns.  Though each piece is different, most kanthas have a similar pattern, with a lotus at the centre and forming the focal point of the design.  In the four corners of the kantha are embroidered tree‑of‑life motifs that point towards the lotus.  Scenes and symbols drawn from a common stock are embroidered in the empty spaces between the central and corner motifs.  Embroidered quilts have come to be known as nakshi kantha, a term popularized by the poet Jasim Uddin in his narrative poem, Nakshi Kanthar Math translated into English as The Field of the Embroidered Quilt.  The main stitch used is the running stitch, but in a variety of ways, creating a variety of designs and textures.  Traditionally, red and black or blue yarn was predominantly used for motifs, with white yarn being used for the background or field of the quilt.  However, the greater availability of colored yarn – generally cotton – has led to a greater variety of color.  After a period of dormancy, the nakshi kantha has seen a revival.  It is no longer a domestic folk art meant for family members, but an art form for public display.” — Niaz Zaman

You will find magnificent examples of Surayia’s tapestries in the collections of these museums.

SURAYIA’S ART

Surayia’s exquisite art was produced in Bangladesh and found its way into the collections of many individuals and institutions throughout the world.

The THREADS documentary story features, for the first time, a representative sampling of Surayia Rahman’s artworks over five decades.  We are grateful to those who helped make possible this visual history of art, which we have woven into the film story of Surayia’s remarkable personal journey as an artist, mother, and social entrepreneur.

“Surayia Rahman’s pieces follow the kantha tradition but have ushered in several changes.  Thus, instead of old cotton, she uses silk.  She also draws the designs of the entire piece before it is given to be embroidered.  The running stitch is used for the empty spaces between motifs or scenes, but the motifs themselves are filled with the Romanian stitch, called in Bangladesh the bhorat or filling [stitch].  She has been inspired by Jasim Uddin’s The Field of the Embroidered Quilt as well as Sojan Badiyar Ghat, translated into English as Gypsy Wharf. She has also drawn scenes from rural life, history, as well as occasionally contemporary events for her pieces.” — Niaz Zaman