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Georgian Times

Curated Submission
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
158 x 108
Materials & techniques
Silk; Embroidered
Gift of Cathy Stevulak
Textile Museum of Canada T2005.7.1

Surayia Rahman, a self-taught painter and textile artist from Bangladesh, visited Toronto and the Textile Museum of Canada in 2003. Impressed by its extensive collection of South Asian textiles, she designed this tapestry specifically for the Museum’s collection.
The artwork is a contemporary interpretation of an indigenous East Bengali tradition (nakshi kantha) of making quilts from old family garments and recycled threads that, beautifully embroidered and decorated with folk motifs, convey timeless stories and legends interpreted in recognizable and appealing images. Drawing from her memories when she was young in Calcutta during the colonial days of the British Raj, Rahman depicts typical scenes during the reign of George V (1910–1936), when British rule in India reached its height and British officials enjoyed extraordinary power and grandeur. Georgian Times includes scenes of a river cruise of a rajah and his British guests, an evening ride by a British couple in a horse-drawn carriage, a postman collecting letters, a rajah holding court, a police station, a tax office, and depictions of other places and events of everyday life designed and stitched with great mastery and precision.
The artist’s involvement with textiles started late in her life when, looking for income to support her family after her husband’s death, she joined a project to train underprivileged women to embroider at a centre in Dhaka. There she developed her own style, which brought traditional household embroidery craft to an art form highly appreciated in Bangladesh and abroad. In 1986, her creative and mentoring experience culminated in the creation of Arshi (Bengali for “mirror”), a cooperative that employs destitute women to embroider textiles based on her designs, featuring stories based on Bengali legends, poetry, and folklore that today are in museums in India and around the world.

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