Why are we doing this?

Tanti’s family, our true heroes

‘Our goals changed from a simple display to capturing its contribution to our culture and exploring its potential for the future.’ Saiful Islam, MD, Bengal Muslin, The seeds of the muslin project were sown when the Stepney Community Trust, based in East London, approached Saiful Islam in 2013 about holding a show on muslin in Dhaka.  The Trust, founded in 1982, had in recent years worked on a number of heritage projects that examine the importance of Bengal-manufactured materials in the history of London’s fashion industry, focussing especially on weaving and muslin. 

Saif and his colleagues at Drik were immediately struck by the idea but resolved to carry out much more extensive research into what they believed was a truly remarkable project for Bangladesh. They received a hugely positive response from many of the external researchers, academics, designers, craftspeople and Government officials that they contacted. 

Drik-Bengal Muslin considered that it was vital and urgent to research, explore and confirm the value of Bangladesh’s past skills and crafts, while at the same time ensuring that the past retains a sustainable and significant role in the country’s current cultural and economic landscape. The current jamdani industry under commercial pressure was increasingly moving towards cheaper and coarser varieties. Arresting this decline was vital for the regeneration of the industry.

It was also felt that acknowledging the huge contribution made by the unrecognised community of farmers and handloom workers who were the originators of this heritage was immensely important.

The first stage of the project was backed up by Drik and also funded by Aarong (the non-profit development and craft agency of BRAC) and the Ministry of Culture, Government of Bangladesh, during the Muslin Festival in 2016.  Since then, the Bengal Muslin project has been self-funded.