Cathy Stevulak is a filmmaker and international program consultant. Her interest in textiles and the advancement of artisan enterprise, particularly in South Asia, led her to direct and produce the award-winning film, THREADS. Stevulak co-authored with Dr. Niaz Zaman “The Refining of a Domestic Art: Surayia Rahman,” a complement to the story of THREADS that she presented at the Textile Society of America Symposium. Prior to becoming a filmmaker, Cathy lived around the world while working for organizations including United Nations Development Programme in Bangladesh, Canadian International Development Agency, NATO and CARE. Cathy is also interested in sustainable fashion and its relationship to global development.
Leonard Hill was a U.S. diplomat posted to Bangladesh when he first met Surayia Rahman and became fascinated by her art. He has worked with Cathy Stevulak to assemble a multinational team of award-winning film makers who are excited by the stories of Surayia and the women she worked with and by the prospect of telling their stories to the world.
THREADS award-winning documentary film (30 minutes)
Followed by a Q and A and discussion with film director, Cathy Stevulak, and producer Leonard Hill.
Background information and THREADS trailer are at: kanthathreads.com
THREADS documentary film is a portrait of an artist — a woman, her community, her culture. It tells the story of how Surayia Rahman, a Bangladeshi artist, transforms the ancient Bengali quiltwork tradition of kantha to help revive it, and creates internationally recognized art. Using her story-telling designs, she teaches other women to embroider elaborate wall hangings. They rise from the despair of poverty to supporting their families, leaving a legacy of beauty and sustainable livelihoods for generations to come.
As a child, Rahman was a witness to the end of British colonial rule in India and was influenced by the culture of the Mughal empire which the British replaced. Rahman’s story ideas reflect her refined upbringing in Calcutta, and her struggles and identification with women’s life and work upon her move to Dhaka following the partition of the sub-continent and the independence of India and Pakistan. Her inspirations hold her steadfast through turbulent times: separation from family, from a project she co-founded to teach young women to stitch and from the designs she created to support herself and others. Ultimately, her creativity and leadership draw hundreds of women to her home, and for twenty-five years they work together.
THREADS touches on themes including evolution of indigenous design, historical influences for contemporary design, intellectual property and sustainability of artisan enterprise.
Surayia Rahman’s designs, stitched by artisans of Bangladesh, have been gifted to world leaders and are also in the permanent collections of Royal Collection Trust (United Kingdom), Textile Museum of Canada, the Embroiderer’s Guild of America, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (Japan), and Powerhouse Museum (Australia). Further background on her story is in the Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings 2014: The Refining of a Domestic Art: Surayia Rahman, co-authored by Cathy Stevulak and Dr. Niaz Zaman.