Kantha In Bangladesh
Kantha In Bangladesh: From Hidden Corners to Public View
with Cathy Stevulak and Dr. Sanchita Banerjee Saxena
Film Screening and Conversation via Zoom
Sunday, March 14, 2021, 1:00pm PST
Fee: $5 TAC and FAMSF members, and members of the UC Berkeley Community, $10 General Admission
Join us for a screening of THREADS, the documentary film telling the story of Surayia Rahman, a Bangladeshi artist, and how she transforms kantha, the traditional Bengali technique of repurposing old sarees into patchwork embroidered fabrics, into an internationally recognized art form. Today in Bangladesh kantha continues to support women’s economic opportunities and sustains artisan enterprise and the evolution of indigenous design.
Following the viewing of the film, there will be a conversation between the filmmaker, Cathy Stevulak, and Dr. Sanchita Saxena, a UC Berkeley scholar of labor rights in the garment industry. They will address the future of kantha embroidery and women artisans in Bangladesh, and the bigger question of how to preserve indigenous arts and create a sustainable future for artisans in the era of global fashion.
Fifty years ago the birth of Bangladesh sparked the re-emergence of South Asian textile traditions, including kantha, as a source of national identity and pride. Rural women benefited socially and financially from the opportunity to gather together and make textiles.
With the advent of “fast fashion” manufacturing in Bangladesh in the 1980’s, economic necessity forced these women to abandon their looms and hand textile production to work in urban factories. The pandemic, along with the decline of fast fashion, is reversing this trend. Factory closures have cost many garment industry workers their jobs, leading them to leave the cities and return to their rural villages. The future of women artisans in Bangladesh, the preservation of indigenous arts, and the creation of a sustainable future for artisans in the era of global fashion are all questions that remain unanswered.
Watch the THREADS film trailer.
Cathy Stevulak is a filmmaker and international program consultant. Her interest in textiles and the advancement of artisan enterprise, particularly in South Asia, led her to direct and produce the award-winning film, THREADS. Prior to becoming a filmmaker, Stevulak lived around the world while working with the United Nations Development Program in Bangladesh, the Canadian International Development Agency, NATO and CARE.
Dr. Sanchita Banerjee Saxena is the Executive Director of the Institute for South Asia Studies (Institute) at UC Berkeley and the Director of the Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies under the Institute. Dr. Saxena is the editor of Labor, Global Supply Chains, and the Garment Industry in South Asia: Bangladesh after Rana Plaza (Routledge, 2020) and author of Made in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka: The Labor Behind the Global Garments and Textiles Industries (Cambria Press, 2014). Dr. Saxena holds a PhD in political science from UCLA.
This program will *not* be recorded for later viewing.
Sponsored by: The Textile Arts Council; the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology in collaboration with the Chowdhury Center, UC Berkeley. With additional support from the Tracing Patterns Foundation and TAC members Ellin Klor & Callista Jerman.
Photos courtesy of Cathy Stevulak.