Stitching Women's Lives: Sujuni and Khatwa from Bhar, India

Date: Sep 29, 1999 - Feb 27, 2000
Curated by: Dorothy Caldwell, Dr. Skye Morrison

The 1999 exhibition Stitching Women’s Lives presents the sujuni and khatwa textile works of Adithi, a women’s self-help co-operative in Bihar, India. The subject matter of these quilts is imaginative and hard-hitting, and ranges from a pictogram educating villagers about the spread of AIDS, to storyboard narratives of the negative effect of dowries and the ongoing act of bride burning on local women, to an exuberant illustration of villagers restoring polluted fishing grounds. These stories come directly from the village women who make the textiles, and are intended to educate – locally and globally – about the best and the worst of their collective experiences.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

This exhibition celebrates these two innovative forms of textile art. Sujuni and khatwa tell of the lives and dreams of the previously silent women of rural and urban Bihar. In rural Bihar, sujuni uses two layers of cotton with images outlined in multi-coloured chain stitching, and filled in with fine running-stitches. The urban Bihar khatwa incorporates appliqué and chain-stitch embroidery to make panels on dense cotton canvasses that depict stories of daily life and social issues.

The series of wall hangings presented in this exhibition depict all the activities of the Bihar women’s non-governmental organization (NGO) called Adithi. The subject matter of these quilts ranges from a pictogram educating villagers about the spread of AIDS, to storyboard narratives of the effect of dowries and the ongoing act of bride burning on local women, to an exuberant recreation of villagers restoring polluted fishing grounds.

Sujuni and khatwa explain everyday life, the accomplishments of women gaining recognition in a male-dominated world, and subjects that affect the future of women in a changing world while providing money and independence to facilitate a better life.

These textiles are an innovative form of contemporary folk art. The topical nature of the work will raise issues about textiles and global economies, and it will give the viewer both a glimpse at another life and insight into the popular culture of India.


ESSAY

Stitching Women’s Lives: Sujuni and Khatwa from Bihar, India, By Dr. Skye Morrison, 1999