Embroidered Quilts from the Adithi Collective
text via University of Illinois at Chicago:
Exhibit at the Library of the Health Sciences, during October and November, 2003*
Adithi is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting women. Adithi’s mission is to empower a diverse group of Indian women living in poverty. The Adithi project is distinctive for its transformation of the traditional kantha (embroidered quilts) into a vehicle for expressing contemporary social and political concerns, including a broad range of health issues.
Since the 18th century, Indian women have made sujuni kanthas or embroidered quilts. This tradition was revived in the late 1980s when the Indian women’s organization, Adithi, joined the Mahila Vikas Samyong Samiti, an organization in the Bihar State, to encourage poor rural women to design, embroider, and sell these kanthas in order to supplement their incomes. The important theme of women’s collective activism appears on many of the quilts and affects the structure of the quilt-making process, where numerous women collaborate to create the designs, embroider, and provide one another community and support. Although they seek to sell their designs, the women have not shied away from difficult themes.
Based near the village of Bhusura, the quilt project has helped support widows, housewives, and the school fees of children, especially girls. The quilts display figures delicately embroidered or appliqued on cotton or locally made silk. Many of the figures are drawn from the lives of the craftswomen, showing their work, their landscape, and their social struggles. Among their topics are women’s work, domestic abuse, rape, forced prostitution. In this exhibit, the kanthas all illustrate the women’s efforts to improve their health care.
For more information see: Sandra Gunning, “Re-Crafting Contemporary Female Voices: The Revival of Quilt-Making among Rural Hindu Women of Eastern India,” Feminist Studies 26.3 (Fall 2000), pp. 719-26.
*countercraft note: After some searching, sadly it looks like this organization is no longer running, but the work it produced is still important and inspiring.