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.

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.

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