Segments in this Video

Surayia Rahman (03:55)


Surayia Rahman and Maureen Berlin co-founded the Skill Development Project training destitute mothers to embroider. Rahman was in charge of designs and recruitment of Hindu, Muslim and Christian participants.

Natural Artistic Talent (04:56)

Rahman was born in Calcutta in the 1930s, and sketched images from her childhood surroundings. At 17, she was married and moved to East Pakistan, where she drew inspiration from traditional kantha quilting to design embroidered tapestries.

Designing Kantha Quilts (03:15)

Rahman replicated images from poetry and history on silk, training some women to specialize in embroidering faces. One piece illustrates a tale of star-crossed lovers.

Empowering Women (02:48)

As Bangladeshi women trained at the Skill Development Project, their status grew. Rahman's daughter brought happiness to a difficult marriage. She sold dolls and scroll paintings to earn a living; early kanthas were both painted and embroidered.

Copyright Case (02:16)

Berlin dismissed Rahman without notice. The Skill Development Project tried to retain her designs but she fought for them in court.

Arshi (03:50)

After being let go from the Skill Development Project, Rahman considered returning to painting. The women she worked with convinced her to start her own organization teaching women embroidery skills.

Family Tragedy (03:05)

Rahman used designs she had at home to provide work for women at Arshi while fighting for copy rights of others. Her daughter Annie helped her, but died in an accident. She continued the business, which became internationally renowned.

Lifted from Poverty (01:45)

After learning embroidery from Rahman, Rashida was able to educate her three children, who have middle class careers. Rahima also educated her children and purchased land.

Retiring (03:50)

After twenty-five years, Rahman passed her work to the Salesian Sisters to run an embroidery center for orphaned girls in Dhaka. She and Berlin reconciled. She lost the copyright case, but her designs continue providing livelihoods for women.

Credits: Threads (01:48)

Credits: Threads

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or


3-Year Streaming Price: $129.95



Torn from her family, her paintings, and her beloved Calcutta after the partition of India, artist Surayia Rahman finds a new life in Bangladesh teaching impoverished mothers to embroider her story-telling designs. An inspirational example of the power of art and the impact of empowering women and girls around the world, this documentary takes us on an intimate journey into the heart of an artist and celebrates an unconventional path to dignity and independence.

Length: 32 minutes

Item#: BVL186853

Copyright date: ©2017

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

"An inspirational tale of one woman’s artistic journey and how she ultimately helped hundreds if not thousands of women to thrive. Will appeal to those interested in art, design, and culture." - Denise A. Garofalo, Library Journal *Recommended* “Introduces a fascinating domestic art form and an interesting personality to viewers. Recommended for art and textile studies programs.” - Education Media Reviews Online, Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA "THREADS provided an amazing opportunity to engage Fashion Institute of Technology students in a conversation about artisanship, fair trade and intellectual property...Its balanced approach prompted a long conversation after the screening, allowing students to share their own feelings and perspectives..." - Joshua Williams, Director, Faces & Places in Fashion lecture series at Fashion Institute of Technology

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video, Dealer and Publisher customers.