Art Speaks: “What is Kantha, Anyway?” with Pika Ghosh
In June 2023, Textile Center was honored to welcome artist Pika Ghosh for a talk on the rich history of kantha textiles and related themes from her book Making Kantha, Making Home (2020).
Pika discussed kantha, a corpus of Bengali textiles that traditionally have been understood as quilted cotton textiles created by women using repurposed white cloth from old and worn garments. To make kantha, women adorned these mended and smoothed surfaces with a wide range of distinctive patterns of running stitches. Some elaborate ones display figures and narratives, sometimes constructed from colored threads, pulled from the borders of old saris. They are associated with domesticity, thrift, virtue, and even Bengali nationalist resistance in the face of British colonialism. In this talk, Pika probed such perceptions to revisit to the fundamental question, what is a kantha, discussed in her book at greater length.
Dr. Pika Ghosh is Visiting Associate Professor of South Asian Art and Religion at Haverford College. Her research focuses on material culture in performative contexts in eastern India from the seventeenth century to the present. Her first book Temple of Love: Architecture and Devotion in Seventeenth-Century Bengal (Indiana University Press, 2005) identified the emergence of a new architectural formation in the religious and political environment of the seventeenth century. She is interested in ethnographic approaches and how current practices, such as ritual and oral lore, can inform us about the pre-modern period. Her most recent book Making Kantha, Making Home (University of Washington Press, 2020) focuses on nineteenth-century kantha imagery, analyzing the visual archives of such textiles to listen for Bengali women’s voices.