New Kantha enterprise looking to engage British Bengali diaspora
Ansar Ahmed Ullah
London: A new social enterprise called Khushi Kantha is being launched to create opportunities for Bengali mothers from the communities hosting the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar to provide for their children, baby ‘kantha’ blankets.
The idea was inspired by the birth of Laura Rana’s mixed heritage British Bengali twin daughters Opi and Mahi, and her experience of working in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh with Save the Children while she was pregnant with them. South West London based Laura Rana, who has lived and worked in Bangladesh for over a decade, is keen to engage with the British Bengali diaspora to support her initiative. She is also aiming to launch a crowdfunding campaign on 22 April, Mother Earth Day.
She said Khushi Kantha aims to create opportunities for mothers in Bangladesh to provide for their children by using their existing skills and drawing on their cultural heritage to generate sustainable incomes. This will be done by partnering with collectives of mothers to make one-of-a-kind, multi-purpose baby blankets, hand-stitched from reclaimed and ethically sourced cotton. Khushi Kantha will be reworking the Bengali ‘Kantha’ tradition of mothers repurposing old saris into blankets for their babies, while retaining the principles of ‘reclaim-repurpose-reuse’ and celebrating Bangladesh’s rich handmade textiles tradition.
Khushi Kantha’s blankets will differ from traditional ‘Kantha’ blankets in two ways. The designs represent a cultural fusion, combining traditional Bengali ‘Kantha’ stitching and animal motifs with geometric patterns and a contemporary colour palette. Secondly, rather than using second hand saris, to meet the rigorous safety standards required for selling baby blankets in a global marketplace, blankets are made from a combination of naturally dyed handloom cotton fabric and reclaimed deadstock cotton from the Bangladeshi garments industry. This means Khushi Kantha will be able to sell blankets at the scale required to ensure the mothers can generate incomes on an ongoing basis.
Laura Rana said, ‘Khushi Kantha aims to create opportunities for mothers in Bangladesh to provide for their children with dignity. Our children will inherit the planet – we want to pass it down to them in the best state possible’.