Bani Mondal is more than an artist; for many years, she has tailor-made her craft to represent ancient Indian artists whose fantastically unique way of is in danger of disappearing entirely. Simultaneously, commitment to social issues faced by women in India’s rural communities is inspiring on its own.
The word Kantha is not one most of us are immediately familiar with, but it’s what Bani has always known. Kantha is a form of embroidery often practiced by rural women. Using remnants of vintage saris and other fabrics, Bani and her team fashion beautiful shawls, quilts and pillows. The finished cloth has many uses: it manifests in bed coverings, curtains, and other domestic fabrics. Contemporary Kantha is applied to a wider range of wearable garments, like saris, everyday shirts and suits. Members of the collective use cotton and silk almost exclusively, soft fabrics suitable for a variety of uses. Today, the group comprises 50 women, who collaborate and work together—deciding, for example, who will stitch a particular motif or part of the fabric, based on the strengths of each artist.
Bani is a member of the non-profit group Link Hands for Humanity, a 39-year-old non-profit organization dedicated to social justice, supporting women’s rights, ecology, medicine, education, and indigenous arts and culture. Longstanding dedication isn’t just creatively based, but also extends to community; many of the artisans’ finely woven, intricately patterned textiles were created by survivors of domestic violence. Knowing that the sale of these items provides their makers with an outlet for financial and emotional independence imbues each and every one with added force.