Monthly Archives: December 2009

Kumudini Foundation

Today we visited the Kumudini Foundation headcourters in Narayanganj, 2 hours drive (with traffic) from Dhaka.

The foundation was set up in 1938 by R P Shaha in memory of his mother, Kumudini who died untreated of tetanus when he was only 7 years old. R P Shaha worked very hard to rise from a humble home to become one of the richest businessmen in Bangladesh, and his dream was always to set up a foundation that would help serve the common people. The Kumudini Foundation has set up hospitals and schools and other welfare projects and its main focus is the education and health of women. ‘R P Shaha thought that the foremost requirement to achieve women’s freedom and establish their rights is education for women.’ R P Shaha set up Kumudini using his entire wealth and to this day the Foundation cannot be used for personal profits or gains.

for more information see http://www.kumudinibd.org/

We met with the General Manager Mr Swapan Saha and the Senior Executive for Kumudini Handicrafts Mr Subrata Saha and visited the garments division where work is done for export, most notably working with People Tree and other European and Japanese companies. We also observed textile samples and handicrafts developed for the Kumudini showroom, a welfare activity of the Foundation.

We learnt that Jute Bailing and warehouse has been the major revenue source for the trust. Today the jute is exported in bails mainly to the US. We were impressed by the activity and energy with which the warehouse workers sorted and packed the jute.

see video of

jute sorting on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkDWH4Bzklg

jute packing on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ir6XTp1wWSg

more jute packing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMgwWnCZJlo

Please note the copyright for all the pictures and videos posted on the blog and flickr belong to Ismini Samanidou and Gary Allson and may not be used without permission

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Old Dhaka

Our river guide, Nurislam, saw it as his duty to show us some of the highlights of the old city. We walked through the narrow streets with tall rambling buildings either side and narrow alleyways in between, with shops neatly arranged and vibrant colours. We even took a rickshaw ride to Bicycle Street to see the rickshaw builders. This area is being knocked down and re built constantly and we have a sense that in a few years this development will change the character of the old city.

Please note the copyright for all the pictures and videos posted on the blog and flickr belong to Ismini Samanidou and Gary Allson and may not be used without permission

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Buriganga River

The Buriganga river flows through the southern part of Dhaka, near the Old town. It forms a busy highway of passenger boats with thousands onboard, cargo vessels loaded to almost being covered by water (see photographs below if you don’t believe us) and tiny wooden paddle powered boats. Yesterday we chose to explore it with a tiny wooden boat lead by our unplanned guiden Nurislam, who picked us up at the ticket kiosk and tried very hard to teach us Bangla. The most amazing thing was that he took us to a shipyard on the other side of the river. The yard builds new, dismantles old and repairs huge ships all by hand and we learnt from our guide that normally 1200 workers are busy in construction, but today was a public holiday so we only saw a few.

We were lucky to go behind the scenes to the workshops making new parts and repairing old, and further to the one room houses where the workers live with their families. We were welcomed with huge smiles from the children and inquisitive questions from the locals. To their amusement Gary even tried his hand at cricket batting badly and shaming the English tradition!

This visit gave us an insight into the other side of Dhaka.

see photographs below and learn Bangla with Nurislam on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWRxFvDLfr4

Please note the copyright for all the pictures and videos posted on the blog and flickr belong to Ismini Samanidou and Gary Allson and may not be used without permission

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Baby taxi a.k.a CNG

We are loving the baby taxis or CNG (compressed natural gass), they are micro taxis, basically a 3 wheeled motorbike with a 2 seater cab at the back, all painted in green. They used to be open until the wife of the police force director was mugged, so now most of them have a door (caging). CNGs are perfect for small distances and weave in and out of the traffic barely scraping past obstacles and people. Green CNGs are for hire, and any other colour is a private CNG. I saw a pink one yesterday!

for a taste of a CNG ride minus the full volume of car horns and street smells see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YafQxzJfepo

Please note the copyright for all the pictures and videos posted on the blog and flickr belong to Ismini Samanidou and Gary Allson and may not be used without permission

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Prabartana

Our visit to Prabatana was a joy, we met Shahid H Shamim, the director of Prabartana and the president of the National Craft Council of Bangladesh. Prabartana is in the Mohammadpur district on the 4th floor overlooking the park. The shop is on two levels and the restaurant is on the top floor with great views over the park. We recommend the restaurant for its delicious food and addictive sweet tea, a secret blend of cinnamon, ginger and cloves, we will certainly be back for more! see http://membres.lycos.fr/ubinig/prabartana/

Shamim has a broad knowledge of hand weaving production of Bangladesh, and all the fabrics in his shop are hand loomed. Cultural responsibility, ethical production and sustainability are at the heart of Prabartana’s brand. We also discussed the importance of design in the development of a successful business model, and Shamim told us about his collaborative design company called Motif ltd http://www.motifltd.com where most products are developed from recycled materials.

We will be visiting Parabartana’s textile production unit at Tangail on the 4th of January where we will see lots of weaving hurray!

Gary got a lunghi, a sarong mainly used by men indoors or if you are a rickshaw driver outdoors. The waiters in the restaurant at our hotel were keen to demonstrate the correct knotting technique to keep the lunghi in position (underwear is not necessary, a little bit like a kilt)

Please note the copyright for all the pictures and videos posted on the blog and flickr belong to Ismini Samanidou and Gary Allson and may not be used without permission

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golden fibre

2009 is the international year for natural fibres. Jute is a natural and biodegradable material and is referred to as the golden fibre in Bangladesh. The Jute Diversification Promotion Centre (JDPC) organised an exhibition to showcase local products. We are interested in doing a weaving and product project with jute and we plan to establish contacts and hopefully visit a jute manufacturer soon.

for more information on jute visit http://www.jute.org and

JDPC: http://www.jute.org/msearchdetails.php?orgname=Jute%20Diversification%20Promotion%20Centre%20%28JDPC%29

International Fibres 2009: http://www.naturalfibres2009.org/

see a video of jute twining on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdWXD0rksEo

Please note the copyright for all the pictures and videos posted on the blog and flickr belong to Ismini Samanidou and Gary Allson and may not be used without permission

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Hatil Furniture Factory visit

On the 24th December we met with Atif Rashid (from the Design Technology Centre and http://www.gograssy.com) who has been working with Hatil (see http://www.hatilbd.com) on a consultancy basis for a number of years.

Atif took us to the Hatil furniture factory to meet the managing director Selim H Rahman. The factory was about an hours drive outside of Dhaka and is one of the largest furniture manufacturing plants in Bangladesh employing 1200 workers.

Hatil manufactures a range of products from domestic through to office furniture and doors. Hatil was set up in 1989 and in 21 years has grown to a progressive nationally recognised company.

Mr Rahman was very generous with his time and showed us the production facilities including the timber processing, machining and finishing, the preparation for the laminates for plywood and the upholstery workshops. Each one of these departments has a major factory floor dedicated to it.

We discussed the opportunity for designers from the UK to work with Hatil on an extended internship project. We feel that the large workforce and their skills form a great platform for contemporary furniture designers to explore new markets. We intend to work with Mr Rahman and Atif on developing a design network between Britain and Bangladesh.

see video of ply wood drying on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuXBixDYyTI

Please note the copyright for all the pictures and videos posted on the blog and flickr belong to Ismini Samanidou and Gary Allson and may not be used without permission

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christmas in Dhaka

a big thank you to the generous Atif (see http://www.gograssy.com) who invited us to have dinner with his family tonight and even gave us Christmas cake!

Christmas back home at Paradise Garden Hotel http://www.paradisegardenhotel.net

Please note the copyright for all the pictures and videos posted on the blog and flickr belong to Ismini Samanidou and Gary Allson and may not be used without permission

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Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas from colourful Dhaka to everyone who is following the blog

xxx

Gary + Ismini


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1st colour workshop at CTET

Our first workshop at College for Textile Engineering and Technology was today (see entry on Dec 18th and  http://www.ctet.gov.bd/)

This is the first of 6 workshops delivered to 3rd and 4th year students aiming to introduce them to the principles of textile design. 3 groups of 32 students will take part and each group will do 2 day workshops. We will be teaching colour, pattern and placement for textile design and have based the workshops on the Design Toolbox brief from the Textile Design course at University College Falmouth (a big thank you to Di and Hannah for helping us plan these!)

A stong group of 29 boys and 3 girls joined the first workshop. We gave an introductory presentation about our work and the reason we are here and then went on to talk about colour palettes.  The initial start was hesitant no doubt because they are unfamiliar with paint and brushes as a way of recording their thinking, but after a short time the students were enthusiastically making colour palettes, some of them very very successfully! We were impressed by the hard working and positive attitude and their excellent manners. We all left looking forward to the second workshop on pattern and placement next week.

I was also shown the hand loom I could be working on and was surprised to find out it was a fully working 120cm sari production width loom! See pictures below to get a better idea.

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