Sew Good: Students collaborate in Kantha sewing ritual

Sew Good: Students collaborate in Kantha sewing ritual

Make friends and take part in a rich tradition of creativity and community with RMIT Student Mita and her collaborative Kantha project.

RMIT student Mita has created a unique opportunity for all students to take part in a traditional collaborative project with thousands of years of history by sewing a Kantha (pronounced ‘katta’) together over the course of a year. 

Kantha is a traditional hand-stitched, embroidered 'quilt' of the subcontinent among undivided Bengal (Bangladesh & West Bengal) people. Kantha’s are created using recycled ‘Sarees’, women's traditional costumes.  

“Before the rise of the industrial revolution and ready-made quilts, a Kantha was the most common and reliable household item used to stay warm during the winter.”  

“There's a story of intense passion, love and care behind making every Kantha. Perhaps a mother is weaving a Kantha with her love to give to her child who's about to get married, or perhaps a grandmother stitches a Kantha using her favourite saree to welcome her new-born grandchild into this world,” explained Mita.  

Creator of the project and Master of Fine Arts student Mita, arrived in Australia after migrating from Bangladesh in 2007. Mita’s art reflects her experience as a migrant female in Australia with a mixed cultural and social background, and the complexities within this space. 

“I have tried to create and explore ideas and represent aspects of my identity, culture, heritage and diaspora, gender, location, and notions of belonging to reflect upon today's broader social and cultural context.” 

“My artistic practice depicts my daily experiences of being an ‘Other’ and an ‘Outcast’ within my surroundings and within this white Anglo dominant society,” shared Mita. 

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'undefined' Students can come together to work on the Kantha project with Mita (top right). Images: Ashish Narwade

When students drop into a session, they'll be taking part in a ritual that for hundreds of years has seen people narrate their daily life, emotions, sorrow, love, surroundings and tales through a Kantha.

After two years of ongoing lockdowns and trauma, Mita’s goal for the project is to create an emotional connection, support network and empathy among students through the stitching and weaving process of Kantha.

"Most of the students said that this stitching was very meditative for them, which helped them to forget their daily problems and hurdles, and enjoy this moment. Our busy lives means we have very little time to devote to ourselves. We always try to balance our time and busyness by employing multitasking. So when all the hassles and busyness are left aside, and our hands and brain spend time on just one thing, it becomes priceless," said Mita. 

Once the project is complete the Kantha artwork will span approximately 3X2 meters and will be a part of RMIT’s permanent art collection for future students and the public to enjoy.

How to get involved  

The project is open to all students from every discipline, and there are no sewing, craft or art skills necessary. Students can stop by for as much or as little time during the sessions as they would like, and by taking part in a slow creative project students can de-stress and recharge together.  

“When a student is sitting down in this stitching process with another student that they are not familiar with, but both are working towards a common purpose; I believe this is the beauty of this initiative. They often engage in social conversations, build team-work skills, create new friendships, and exchange cultural information or identity,” encourages Mita.  

This project is supported by the Cultural Visions Grant and presented in collaboration with RMIT Culture. This is a collaboration between Mita Chowdhury, RMIT Kirrip X RMIT Creative. 

Story: Ellen Singleton

16 September 2022


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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.