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.

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.

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.

Posted by:  Len

With all best wishes for a happy and peaceful 2014, here is a link to our latest newsletter.  There is a lot going on with Threads as we come to the end of a very productive 2013.

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to this project.  We rely completely on your support to tell the inspiring story of Surayia and the women she worked with.  We are very grateful for the assistance!

Alpona, Surayia Rahman design. Photo copyright Anil Advani and Kantha Productions LLC.

Alpona, Surayia Rahman design. Photo copyright Anil Advani and Kantha Productions LLC.

Posted by:  Cathy and Len

How many lawyers and rhinos are there in Surayia’s work “The Raj?”  The answer is:  One … and two, depending on when the piece was designed.

The original "Raj" with one lawyer.

The original “Raj” with one lawyer.

In recent weeks we have had several fascinating conversations with Andreas, a friend of Surayia’s who encouraged her to design a nakshi kantha tapestry based on her experience as a witness to the last days of British rule in Calcutta.  Surayia mentioned Andreas to us some months ago, saying that we should get in touch with him.  Asked where he was and how to contact him, she said: “Oh it shouldn’t be hard to find him, he’s a German man.  Ask in Germany.  He gave me a leather book once.  Ask at the bookshops, they will know his address.”   Fortunately for us, an internet search turned up contact information for a man who seemed to be a match, and an e-mail to him asking if he might be the person Surayia mentioned brought a quick and gracious reply.

 

The updated "Raj" with a second lawyer.

The updated “Raj” with a second lawyer.

Surayia tells us that, when she was encouraged by Andreas to design the tapestry that she called “The Raj,” it had a hunting scene with one rhinoceros, and a courtroom scene with one lawyer.  This design was produced under the auspices of the Skills Development for Underprivileged Women project.  Surayia later was let go from SDUW.  The project retained her original designs and applied to the Copyright Board for ownership.  When some of the women from the Skills Development project came to ask her to help them, Surayia formed her own organization Arshi, and needed to re-create the designs.  With the copyright proceedings looming, Surayia tells us that she was advised to make her designs with a difference.  So … the single rhino is the hunting scene became two rhinos.  And the single lawyer in the courtroom gained a colleague.  As she tells us in one of the interviews that Mishuk Munier filmed in Dhaka:  “I never saw a courtroom before but I did a perfect courtroom scene, with two lawyers.”

For thirty years and continuing today, Surayia’s designs in both versions are the center of livelihoods for many artisans of Bangladesh.    The Threads film is a story that goes well beyond ‘one’ or ‘two’…it is a story of how one person, with creativity and sharing skills, can impact the lives of communities for generations.   The artwork is not the only legacy; it is the children who are schooled, the women who are empowered to buy their own land, and those who are teaching others to stitch beauty for a future.

"Raj" with one rhino.

“Raj” with one rhino.

"Raj" with two rhinos.

“Raj” with two rhinos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos by Tino Sieland.  Used with kind permission of the owner.