Tarango, working with women and jute

Kim and Joyce from Telford College and Cardonald pointed me to Tarango, an non government organisation working for training, assistance and rural advancement of disadvantaged women. See http://www.tarango-bd.org/ for more information. Currently the organization reaches over 12000 women and their families through 3 main programs on Entrepreneurship, organizational development and Handicrafts.

I visited their offices in Mirpur, central Dhaka, to meet Ms. Kohinoor Yeasmin, the chief executive officer. We had a long conversation about difficulties women face in Bangladesh and I saw the product range including the quality control section and the bag sewing section. The products are mainly made of jute and recycled cement bags, are all made for export and sell through various shops, from Marks & Spencer to Heals, and to other outlets internationally. Tarango is always looking for designers to work with and we discussed the possibility of students from Falmouth maybe coming to do an internship. There is enormous potential with Jute products so I am sure there will be interesting developments where designers can use jute to innovate and experiment.

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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Back in Dhaka

Its been a week since I returned to Dhaka and its amazing how far away the countryside feels! Its been warmer and very very dry, with dust and pollution 5 times the maximum. Eyes and sinuses are blocked, I am longing for Cornwall’s crisp air, and believe it or not rain too!

Its been a busy few days with lots of visits both for textiles and as a tourist and some learning too!

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Tangail textile engineering college (BITT)

Last week in Tangail and Dhaka I met with the lecturers and students from Scotland who are working on a collaborative project with Tangail textile engineering college to develop a course on fashion design. The project is supported by the British Council and is already in its second year. Lecturers and students from the Scottish Colleges (Telford College and Cardonald College) and from Tangail Textile College (BITT)  have visited each other’s college and the project is developing well, with both parties very enthusiastic about this collaboration. I was keen to see this forward thinking college and meet the lecturer’s so on a sunny morning I made my way to meet some of the staff (the students are away for the week). Their commitment to their collaborative project was evident from the trees planted by Kim and Joyce on their last visit.

for more details on all colleges see

Edinburgh’s Telford College: www.ed-coll.ac.uk, Cardonald College Glasgow: www.cardonald.ac.uk, Tangail Textile Engineering College: www.titangail.gov.bd

The college is government funded and teaches all aspects of textile engineering and technology (very much like CTET) but is set up more recently. There is a variety of machinery and facilities for garment construction, testing, spinning, dyeing and printing, weaving and knitting. Like CTET most of the equipment functions better than others, with the sewing and testing labs in full operation. The equipment is well looked after and the space is vast. I loved seeing the wet  processing room with all the equipment raised on pedestals! I was expecting a miracle and to see fully operational looms too but the visit to the weaving lab proved there seems to be a general problem getting technical staff with appropriate training to run the looms.

I am baffled as to why a country with such skill and growth in the industrial textile sector cannot support its educational facilities with better technical training and maintenance.  At the same time I realise how different the woven textiles teaching experience is in the UK, where theory and practice is combined. Maybe the need to have weaving machines operating would only come from a shift in the curriculum? I wonder if the industry contacts here in Bangladesh can step in and offer some technical support?

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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Gold patterns and shadows

Koi (pronounced koui) is a type of pop rice tasting very much like pop corn. The rice is heated in hot sand and once it pops it is laboriously sifted 3 times and carefully cleaned. It is group work with all women working together to ensure the koi is free of sand or rice shells. Different bamboo sifts are used in each part of the process. The sun was shining through the sift making beautiful shadows and I tried recording them on my notebook. The crumpled paper made the shadows into distorted line patterns, a great visual source for textile designs!

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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Fields of gold

In the open space rice and mustard seeds are spread out to dry before they are packed and sent to the market. On my last visit I used the grass brush to make herringbone patterns on the mustard seeds. This time the space was covered with rice and I couldn’t help trying some new patterns! One of the workers joined in and in a few minutes we had transformed the rice into a field of wavy gold lines.

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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Pots of Gold

The Ubinig centre at Tangail is home to the rice gene bank, where 3000 varieties of rice are sorted, placed in ceramic pots sealed with mud, numbered and carefully catalogued and stored to ensure the genes will survive and cann be distributed to the farmers each year. Language barriers mean I am still not fully understanding the processes and methods but from my experience and visual understanding  I know this is a time consuming process. Throughout my visits I have seen the rice seeds at various stages of sorting and packing and this time the rice pots were neatly placed in rows in numerical order, and my Ubinig friends were busy transferring them to their correct place in the gene bank.

I am struck at the love, commitment and time that goes into this process. The seeds are precious and are handled with extreme care to ensure all the genes will continue to survive. It reminded me of a conversation about gold, and how gold is the most precious possession a woman can have here. I heard no matter how poor a woman would hold on to her gold jewellery as her most precious possession, a sign of strength and beauty. My initial idea when I saw the line of pots was to get my jori (gold thread used for weaving the borders of saris) and to weave in and out of the pots. Understandably my friends were focused on storing the pots and not on artistic interventions and I was quickly shown a number of empty pots in the corner I could play with! I just used a few for an initial sketch idea. I still think trying to get all the pots together and weaving gold threads in and out of them would be beautiful. A textile way of cataloguing and sorting, as you do when you make a warp and separate each thread.

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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Tangail inspiration

I returned to the village of Pathrail in Tangail to stay at the Ubinig seed preservation centre for a few days. My Ubinig friends welcomed me with big hugs and smiles. It was my 4th visit and each time I seem to see more details, get more small insights into a simpler life where everything is made by hand, the food is all local and fresh, and electricity is not available for most parts of the evening. With the intention of focusing on my practice, and thinking of ways to express new ideas all my senses were highly tuned.

Once more I was amazed at how the colours and patterns in nature are reflected in the textiles. And how close nature and textiles are, with warps being wound round every corner making colourful roads of threads, and the sound of weaving echoing with the sounds of birds songs. I wish I could transfer this beauty to traffic jammed Dhaka, and fill the roads with colourful threads and rhythmic sounds. I love the way the light makes the threads appear and disappear and the sheen of the brightly coloured silk flashes in the sunshine, I think there is an installation idea there, something to explore when I return to the UK.

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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