Tag Archive for: Art

Posted by: Cathy

March is Women’s History Month, a great time for us to think about Surayia, her art, and the hundreds of women who worked with her to make nakshi kantha tapestries.   The National Women’s History Project in the U.S. has selected “Women’s Education — Women’s Empowerment” as the theme for 2012.

How appropriate to reflect on Surayia’s role in the education and empowerment of poor women in Bangladesh.  As I work with Rita editing the film Threads: the art and life of Surayia Rahman, time and again people whom we have interviewed return to the image of Surayia patiently guiding other women, first at the Skills Development project and later at her own organization called Arshi.

Surayia Rahman and some of the women of Arshi. Photo copyright by Anil Advani and Kantha Productions LLC

Surayia’s efforts as an artist and a teacher ramified, with woman teaching their own children and being able to afford better food, better housing, and very importantly, to send them to school.  Education and empowerment go hand in hand for Surayia and the women who worked with her.  As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we celebrate teachers and those who share their skills to empower others for a better future.


We are featured artists!

Thanks to Jeni Woock of Gig Harbor for her enthusiastic support!

SURYA blocks for printing. Photo: Anil Advani

We were at Ameneh Ispahani’s home a few evenings ago along with Cathy and Len, talking about her long friendship and association with artist Surayia.  She told us that Surayia had created the design for their stationery paper. I am unsure if SURYA was the name of an organization, or the name of a “label”.  I will have to speak with her again on this subject and get the details. She brought out these metal printing-blocks – which are absolutely amazing!  A small block with the words “SURYA” [the Sun] and a set of 4 plates with a designs based on the famous Jamdani weave of Bengal. The traditional Jamdani motifs and “butis” [flowers/leaves etc] incorporated into a multi-layered letter paper design. The metal blocks were probably used to print different colors with each block – making a final multi-colored print. The blocks have markings on the sides, some with a number and some have the name of the color written onto the wood side of the block – which are “LAAL” on one block [meaning RED] and “KAALA” on another block [meaning BLACK]. I will need to do a few test prints from these blocks to see if all 4 are to be layered into one print or [what appears to me] into two separate designs from 2 blocks each.  I will post an update to this blog as soon as I have been able to obtain prints from these blocks with the assistance of an artist / print-maker friend who has very kindly offered use of their ink, press and other equipment at a print-making workshop.

Blogged by Anil for KanthaThreads.com

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.

Anil Advani, who has been helping us so much in photographing Surayia’s work in Bangladesh, recently joined Surayia and others at the US Embassy in Dhaka to document the two nakshi kantha tapestries that Surayia completed about twenty years ago for the US Embassy building in Bangladesh which opened in 1989.

One of these tapestries is a “one of a kind” piece, designed by Surayia after she had witnessed the cutting of the ribbon at the Embassy inauguration ceremony.

The other is a series of 9 panels based on designs of architect Louis Sullivan.  Surayia recollects that the designs were sent to her as small photocopies.  She chose the threads and supervised “her girls” to embroider them for the Embassy opening.

Many thanks to the US Embassy for preserving these special kantha tapestries!

(The images are clickable for larger views)