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Kantha embroidery-a woman-centric path towards empowerment for artisans in West Bengal

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Author: 
Dr. Debaleena Debnath and Sreenanda Palit
Abstract: 

Niaz Zaman describes the needlecraft of Kantha as "women's art”. Traditionally the Kantha embroidery of Bengal has been the forte of women, unlike Zardosi and Ari work which is predominated by men folk. The craft has a history of being a revered recycled product. A Kantha is considered to be layers of old sarees or dhotis quilted together to form a blanket, used by the poor as a protection against cold. Later the ‘nakshi’ form of it was born in the household of undivided Bengal as a portrait of women’s aspiration and dream. The paper discusses how Kantha has been dominated by women and has eventually helped to empower hundreds of them. The various factors that made it woman-centric have been explored through primary research conducted among 50 artisans from Nanoor, Birbhum District, and Kadambagachi, Barashat District of West Bengal. The study presents a comparative study of both the clusters. The paper also explores how this needle-craft of Bengal underwent modifications from being a personal gift to a commercial product, thus empowering women and encompassing more beneficiaries under its umbrella, hand held by NGOs, Design Institutions, craft revivalists, and designers.

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