Kantha Reimagined: From Private to Public

Run Time: 19:27

In this talk, Cathy Stevulak, Director of Kantha Productions LLC, USA, shares the story of kantha. Kantha, or nakshi kantha, is an important women’s art in Bengal. Several layers of cloth, often old garments, are stitched into objects of domestic, ritual or ceremonial use. This tradition was almost lost with transnational migration, war, and natural disaster in the Indian sub-continent in the 20th century. Yet today, tens of thousands of women earn income from creating various forms of kantha. In Bangladesh, kantha was revived to provide income-earning opportunities for women left widowed or otherwise destitute after the 1971 War of Independence. In the early 1980s, kantha was refined as an art for public display; these wall-hangings became known as ‘nakshi kantha tapestry.’ The revival of kantha followed soon after in West Bengal. Crucial to kantha revival in Bangladesh were images of old kanthas in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The textiles traveled from Bengal to America and came back as an inspiration for new art. This video presentation outlines a history of kantha, its making and its evolution, briefly exploring traditional and contemporary examples. It also introduces artist Surayia Rahman, one of the key figures in the refinement of this domestic textile art for public display.

Credits: Kantha Reimagined: From Private to Public is a co-production by Tracing Patterns Foundation and Kantha Productions LLC.