Surayia Rahman (03:55)
Surayia Rahman and Maureen Berlin co-founded the Skill Development Project training destitute mothers to embroider. Rahman was in charge of designs and recruitment of Hindu, Muslim and Christian participants.
Natural Artistic Talent (04:56)
Rahman was born in Calcutta in the 1930s, and sketched images from her childhood surroundings. At 17, she was married and moved to East Pakistan, where she drew inspiration from traditional kantha quilting to design embroidered tapestries.
Designing Kantha Quilts (03:15)
Rahman replicated images from poetry and history on silk, training some women to specialize in embroidering faces. One piece illustrates a tale of star-crossed lovers.
Empowering Women (02:48)
As Bangladeshi women trained at the Skill Development Project, their status grew. Rahman's daughter brought happiness to a difficult marriage. She sold dolls and scroll paintings to earn a living; early kanthas were both painted and embroidered.
Copyright Case (02:16)
Berlin dismissed Rahman without notice. The Skill Development Project tried to retain her designs but she fought for them in court.
After being let go from the Skill Development Project, Rahman considered returning to painting. The women she worked with convinced her to start her own organization teaching women embroidery skills.
Family Tragedy (03:05)
Rahman used designs she had at home to provide work for women at Arshi while fighting for copy rights of others. Her daughter Annie helped her, but died in an accident. She continued the business, which became internationally renowned.
Lifted from Poverty (01:45)
After learning embroidery from Rahman, Rashida was able to educate her three children, who have middle class careers. Rahima also educated her children and purchased land.
After twenty-five years, Rahman passed her work to the Salesian Sisters to run an embroidery center for orphaned girls in Dhaka. She and Berlin reconciled. She lost the copyright case, but her designs continue providing livelihoods for women.
Credits: Threads (01:48)
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