Cover of "KANTHA"

Cover of "KANTHA"

Darielle Mason’s Kantha:
The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection and the Stella Kramrisch Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
is the recipient of the Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award  – a 2011 Award of Distinction of the College Art Association.  
Congratulations to Darielle Mason and contributors Pika Ghosh, Katherine Hacker, Anne Peranteau and Niaz Zaman! 

“…acute insights into an important region and an understudied medium” 

“…for the first time, a comprehensive, sensitive treatment to this form of women’s domestic, creative, and social expression”

Working on the film and catalog of Surayia’s art, we were kindly put in touch with the members of the American Council for Southern Asian Art.  Many thanks to ACSAA for helping us to find more of Surayia’s designs around the world.   One of the Council’s members, Joanna Kirkpatrick,  has studied the art of Bangladesh rickshaws and we think that you will find her Ricksha Arts website of interest.   Rickshaw drivers in Bangladesh are very hard working, often providing transport for several people and their market purchases in the scorching heat or pouring rain.  Some of the women that Surayia trained to embroider had to supplement the income of their husbands who were rickshaw drivers because the work is not a particularly well-paying even in the best of times.  As difficult as this job is, rickshaws provide a critical and affordable means of transport, and the art portrayed on the rickshaws is often colourful and imaginative.

Copyright Joanna Kirkpatrick

Copyright Anil Advani

I received good news that Farah Ghuznavi – with whom I worked at the United Nations Development Programme in Bangladesh – has just released a short story in Woman’s Work, a diverse collection of short stories by forty women writers that promises to be an interesting read.
Congratulations Farah!

Early in my time in Bangladesh, Farah introduced me to her mother, Ruby, from whom I have learned so much about textiles, natural dyes and craft.   Ruby and her team at Aranya Crafts have worked steadily to preserve and promote the rich cultural and artistic heritage of the region and, in the process, have touched the lives of thousands of people.  During our recent film shoot in Dhaka, we interviewed Ruby about nakshi kantha embroidery and Surayia’s role in its evolution.

I recently spoke with Dr. Niaz Zaman of Bangladesh, one of the world’s foremost experts on kantha embroidery who we interviewed for “Threads” during a film shoot in Dhaka in April.  She will be giving a special lecture about the evolution of kantha on Sunday, June 13, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art:  The Kantha: From Bedroom to Boardroom.  Dr. Zaman was with Surayia not long ago at the US Embassy in Dhaka where Surayia’s work was being photographed.  More about that in our next post.

Also…..while at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, don’t miss the exhibition “Kantha” which runs through next month.   Len and I visited the exhibition earlier this year and highly recommend seeing the almost forty kanthas collected by Stella Kramrisch and by Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Nakshi Kantha tapestry inspired by the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore:
“When I bring you coloured toys, my child, I understand why there is such a play of colours on clouds, on water, and why flowers are painted in tints – when I give coloured toys to you, my child.”

Photographs used with the kind permission of Surayia’s friend in Italy.
Click the pictures for a large view.

Surayia Rahman, a self-taught artist in Bangladesh, painted and designed hundreds of tapestries that are now appreciated around the world.  She is a mother herself, and also nurtured hundreds of young women in Bangladesh as she guided them to produce incredible embroidered tapestries.  Though these women were very poor, their talents and new skills helped them to feed their families, send their children to school and university, rent a home or own a piece of land.

  • For information on the documentary film in progress about Surayia’s art and life: KanthaThreads
  • For more information on the works of Rabindranath Tagore, see Crescent Moon: When and Why and Child-Poems