MORNING light streams through the bedroom windows and you slide out the warm comfort of the hand-embroidered quilt. You head out the balcony where breakfast is waiting. A cool breeze embraces you and you reach out for the handwoven shawl. Clasping the bone china cup filled with freshly-brewed coffee warms your fingers. You smile at the view of the lush green forest as you take a sip of the hot liquid. Work beckons. After a quick shower you opt for a comfortable set of high- quality cotton ensemble of your favorite fashion brand for today’s look. A look that should last to the evening for an important dinner affair.
Accessorized with the right jewelry, chic leather bag and shoes, you head out the door. Dinner is fancy. You dine on top chef’s haute cuisine from an exquisite all-white bone china dinner set, the same brand the nobility patronizes. You may be unaware, but chances are that what you have in your home, fills your closet and take joy in using are made in Bangladesh.
Yes, Bangladesh, a developing nation in South Asia. Its export industry contributed highly to the rise of its economic boom. They are the world’s second largest garment exporter next to China manufacturing for the labels you patronize. Those leather accessories that complete your look may also be made by them.
Aside from producing designer ceramic ware, Bangladesh is a source of bone china sets that grace the banquet tables of the royalty, some of which don’t bear the “Made in Bangladesh” for some reason. Your high-quality dinner set acquired from the high-end specialty shop may be the handiwork of the Bengali artisans. At the source, the locals may not have access to these brands. Does it matter to them? Perhaps not. With stores overflowing with locally-produced garments using the best materials they use for export, why would one even buy it’s higher-priced counterpart?
Bangladesh’s most exciting products are not as accessible such as the Nakshi kantha and the Jamdani, two centuries-old Bengali art tradition.
The Naksha kantha is a type of embroidered quilt. The craft uses the basic materials of thread and old cloth, usually from old sarees, lungis and dotis. “Naksha” refers to artistic patterns and “kantha” comes from
“kantha stitch” or the running stitch, the main stitch of the craft.
In the past, the women of the household produced the kanthas for the use of the family, working on it on their leisure time. It can take them months or even years to finish one.
When the craft was revived, nakshi kantha is produced commercially using cotton fabrics, and applied in many other forms: coin purses, shawls, throw pillow and bed covers, and hanging decors among others.
To own a Jamdani is like owning a piece of Bengal history. It was originally called “Dhakai”, after the city of Dhaka, a textile weaving center in the Bengal region. The fine muslin textile has been produced for centuries and was patronized by the Mughal emperors in the past.
Jamdani is woven by hand using cotton fibers, which was referred to as muslin. This Bengali tradition of weaving is time and labor intensive.
Typically, the weave uses a mixture of cotton and gold thread with designs that are rich in motifs.
After a decline of production in the 19th century, the demand for high- quality Jamdani Sarees grew through the years.
This traditional weaving art was declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013.
Although today’s production is created for saree, the traditional dress for women, it has a huge potential for other use. All it takes is creativity. It’s a fabulous alternative for a Barong Tagalog or the Terno in the Philippines.
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