The label Katna's Kantha was born in a village named Katna in West Bengal, India. It represents the collective effort of a growing network of women, from Katna and neighbouring villages in the district of Murshidabad.
The Story of Kantha
Kantha refers to a distinct style of Bengal embroidery applied to the creation of coverlets. Traditionally the Lep kantha of old, involved poor village women sewing together layers of old cloth, mostly saris, with intricate stitches. The thread used for the purpose was pulled out of the sari itself. Their meticulous artistry transformed worn out rags into extraordinarily beautiful creations that could withstand further usage. Till today, this combination of thrift and aesthetics is not mass produced and is usually not for sale. The intricate geometry of their design and the near absence of folk motifs continue to be a notable feature of Muslim kantha-making traditions of Murshidabad.
The kantha holds a very special place within the village life in Katna. Making kanthas is a ritual activity as they are used to wrap and protect precious objects. Baby kanthas are prepared for the newborn. At her marriage every girl receives an intricate kantha that her mother would have worked on for years. A kantha is also used during cremation ceremony to cover the dead.
Katna's Kantha, a Street Survivors India project, is a livelihood generation programme that has taken this traditional and evolved skill of village women to economically empower them. Street Survivors India strives to work with communities in Murshidabad through a holistic approach that recognizes the inseparable linkage between empowerment and livelihood.