Making Space:Sensing Place

In October 2009, along with artist Thurle Wright, I was awarded a Making Space:Sensing Place Fellowship; part of the HAT: Here and There International Exchange Programme, managed by A Fine Line:Cultural Practice. The Fellowship includes residencies with Britto Arts in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with Arts Reverie in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with The V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London and with The Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire. Working and collaborating with artists and craftspeople from the UK, Bangladesh and India, responding to the collections and spaces we encounter and sharing these experiences through a touring exhibition and educational workshops.

This blog, which is still developing and being added to, is a record of my experiences during the MS:SP Fellowship. Steven Follen.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


At Aarong and at the museums, both the National and at Sonargoan, I had seen a type of embroidery called Kantha; Owen and Lena had examples in their apartment too.
Kantha is a narrative style of embroidery that is native to Bangladesh. Its history and origins are difficult to place exactly, the oldest pieces in the National Museum date to the 1850's but it is believed that these pieces evolved from a much earlier tradition associated with the visual documentation and communication of customs, social systems and knowledge of some of the earliest tribal and nomadic groups of the region.
The needlework is executed by women using layers of old sarees, dhotis and/or lunghis, stab stitched together in fine layers like a quilt. Brightly coloured threads drawn fom the same fabrics were once used to create intricate sybols and motifs. The imagery is influenced by all of the key religions from the history and development of the region (Hinduism, Buddism and Islam). There are lots of different styles of Kantha.
The women use the fabrics to produce everyday objects such as pillow cases, quilts , spreads and wallets, as well as objects for ritual and ceremony including prayer mats, Puja floor spreads Quran covers and other ceremonial cloths.
Modern Kantha is still produced for domestic purposes but also for the tourist market. It continues to follow those traditional applications of domestic textiles ( quilts and spreads), information or narrative wall panels, illustrating rituals, festivals, song, legend, dress and customs.