Kantha (Embroidered Quilt)
Artist/maker unknown, Bengali
The process of making a kantha began with gathering pieces of used, unstitched cotton cloth, especially saris and dhotis (women's and men's garments respectively). Carefully placed and layered fragments-sometimes as many as two dozen-were then stitched together. Kanthas could be created with as few as two and as many as seven layers of cloth. The enigmatic imagery here includes a man embracing a hookah-smoking woman on an armchair, his unfinished lower body sketched onto the cloth. Four horsemen (the top of the fourth visible only in underdrawing) seem to battle a nest of cobras and perhaps also the nearby crab. At top may be the parable of the blind men and the elephant, a story that originated in South Asia.