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Posted by:  Cathy and Len

We will be posting some good news about film festival and other showings of Threads soon.  In the meantime, check out the new trailer for Threads that co-producer Catherine Masud has just completed.  Thank you, Catherine!

Please feel free to share the trailer widely.  If you prefer to watch and share on YouTube, you can see the new trailer here.

Traditional Boat.  Surayia Rahman design.  Photo used with permission.

Traditional Boat. Surayia Rahman design. Photo used with permission.

 

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.

 

Posted by:  Cathy

Len and I — accompanied by our friend Carolyn Wiley, who organizes the Fiber Arts Festival in Longbranch, Washington — had the opportunity to talk to a nearby quilt guild about traditional nakshi kantha of Bengal, Surayia’s art and the film.  One of the subjects we talked about was the link between traditional Bengali quilting and what Surayia created starting in the early 1980s when she imagined nakshi kantha stitching as some of the finest tapestries in the world.

Cathy discussing Surayia’s work at the Vashon Island Quilt Guild. Photo copyright Kantha Productions, LLC.

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to interact with so many knowledgeable quilters who could quickly understand the significance of both the design and the craftsmanship of the art that we brought to show.  We really appreciated the interest people showed and the questions they asked.

It was also a pleasure to have the opportunity to explore Vashon Island, Washington, before we had to catch a ferry to get back home.  Vashon is a great place, home to innovative  businesses like fair-trade shop Giraffe (“Beauty and Justice Hand In Hand”) and the incredibly well-stocked Island Quilter where one can get lost in batiks, polka dots and yarn of many types.  We plan to be back to visit soon.

We appreciate very much the generosity of everyone from the Quilt Guild who contributed to a donation to help us produce the film and to support creativity in life!  It is vital that we be able to regularly talk with Surayia in Bangladesh about the film story and to discuss her inspirations for various of her designs….and this community of women in Vashon have reached out to us to help make this happen.

Please spread the word about Surayia and the documentary-in-progress Threads to other quilters!

 

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)

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.