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Nakshi Kantha, a traditional source of income for Bengali rural women

Nakshi Kantha that is made of recycling old cloth getting popularity among middle and upper-class people.

From the ancient time, the application of the artistic pattern in the art of needlework and hand embroidery has been practiced by Bangladeshi poor women among the part of rural areas for their family use. They produce the art in recycling worn-out materials such as sarees, lungis, and dhotis are stitched to form embroidery quilts for their necessary purpose in particular use. Also known as ‘Nakshi Kantha.’

Nakshi kantha
Figure 1: Photography by Geoff Bugbee for Heifer International to investigate the project of intricate quilts of Bengali rural women. Courtesy: Heifer International

In the following art of these basic patterns, the people of same communities show the traditionalistic survival history of their cultural beliefs.

Though the concept exists in almost all parts of the world, the form of quilting that prevails in Bengal is unique and not only serves as a functional article but also represents the cultural identity and folk art.

The art of reflection in life, aspirations, and culture of the village women show their significant visibility of artistic pattern in needlework such as ‘Nakshi Kantha’. It is essentially a type of folk art where colorful patterns and designs are embroidered into a quilt with a running stitch called ‘Kantha Stitch’. Now this ‘Kantha Stitch’ generates various activities in different art on Fashion wear.

‘Nokshi Kantha’ or embroidered quilt, which has found a place within the urban middle and upper-class people in recent years & It has a lot of untapped potentials.

The ‘Kantha Stitch’ was mainly popular with Hindu women of the greater Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Faridpur and Jessore regions. Today the most exquisite ‘Kanthas’ are also made from these districts.

The uses of Nakshi Kantha has a long range to cover the uses in various activities. Kanthas are most used as wraps and bedding, ranging from heavy winter quilts to light summer covers. Babies are often swaddled in kanthas, the soft cotton fabric of sarees being perfect for their delicate skin. Kanthas are mostly used as a floor covering (Dastarkhan) for dining; a prayer rug (Jai namaz); a quilt for sitting (asan); or a decorative wrap for cloths and valuables.

The cost of making ‘Nakshi Kantha’ is minimum, but the value and time-consuming embroidery work make it luxurious and valuable. A medium-sized quilt takes 2-3 months to complete and valued around 1000 to 5000 taka. The profit margin is sufficient due to the availability of old clothes.

The traditional craft of rural heritage has given many significant changes to empower rural women. They hold on their artistic needlecrafts work by their passion to observe the rules from their family which they have learned from. This way by their visibility of patience in work, they have achieved a livelihood entrepreneurship in their way of circumstances to build up their professionalism. Once destined for family use, Nakshi Kantha is now the center of a flourishing cottage industry, once that has transformed many a housewife into an entrepreneur.

Many fashion houses of our country have experimented extensively with the Nakshi Kantha such as Arong, Bengal gallery, Kumudini, and Mayasir etc. They have come forward to sponsor different exhibitions to show the significant traditional heritage in artificial needle motifs work displayed by Nakshi Kantha.

Nakshi Kantha exhibition at Bengal Shilpalaya
Figure 2: Bengal Foundation organized an exhibition of Nakshi Kantha at Bengal Shilpalaya in Dhanmondi in 2014 to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin. Courtesy: Dhaka Tribune

Government initiative to revive the embroidery textile

Bangladesh government has taken steps to create a vast indicator to represent the traditional sources on artistic work to enlarge the embroidery textile market of our country.

Recently Bangladesh Handloom Board finalized Tk. 21.13 billion projects in this connection. Starting from this year, the construction of the hub is expected to be finished by 2023 and will be located across two upazilas of Jamalpur.

Once completed, the 300-acre hub to be known as ‘Sheikh Hasina Nakshi Palli,’ would accommodate almost 1,200 entrepreneurs while tripling the production of embroidery items in the country.

The aim of the project is to create employment opportunities, especially for women through rehabilitant weaves and ‘Nakshi’ (design) entrepreneurs, supplying raw materials at reasonable prices, using local jute products in handloom industry and utilizing the talent of local artists.

This would be one of the biggest government projects for the whole textile sector in the country and it will help create a bigger market for embroidered textiles while generating more than three hundred thousand additional jobs.

Conclusion

‘Nokshi Kantha’ or embroidered quilt, which has found a place within the urban middle and upper-class people in recent years. It has a lot of untapped potentials and it can go a long way if backed with systematic government patronage and appropriate facilities.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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