Kheta – An exhibition showcasing Shershabadi women’s embroidery

Kheta, an exhibition of embroideries, lesser-known reversible quilts, made by Shershabadi women from the Kishanganj district of Bihar, will be held at the National Crafts Museum and Hastkala Academy, Bhairon Marg, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi from 4 March 2022 – April 3, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Kheta is the cultural identity and embroidered expression of the Muslim migrant community known as Shershabadi. The display of embroidered (quilted) products in the Textile Gallery of the Handicrafts Museum will include a live display of handicrafts by Shershabadi women, workshops for educational institutions to learn handicrafts, talks of experts, film screenings/audio-visual sessions giving an insight into the Shershabadi community and culture as well as the sale of Kheta products from the museum shop

The main objectives of the exhibition are:

  • Making Kheta a unique embroidery and cultural identity of the Shershabadi community, paving the way for obtaining a geographical indication (GI status)
  • Use of Kheta textile as evidence of Shershabadi migration from Bangladesh to Bihar, thus tracing the links between Bangladesh and India
  • Document and present the maximum number of Kheta models (many are no longer in practice)
  • Encourage economic empowerment through the practice and retention of skills in villages showcasing lesser-known craftsmanship to a wider audience.
  • The sole purpose of the exhibition is to show the genius of these craftswomen which is organized by the Zameen Astar Foundation (ZAF) and the Azad India Foundation (AIF) in partnership with the Crafts Museum of New Delhi. The Indian Institute of Art and Design (IIAD) is the academic partner.

Over the past 4 years, ZAF and AIF have researched, documented and presented on Kheta. The extensive work done with these Shershabadi artisans has the potential to have an international presence as well as fuel entrepreneurial ventures locally.

Originally settled on land donated by Emperor Sher Shah Suri (who reigned from 1486 to 1545 AD) in the Malda district of Bangladesh, the Shershabadi community migrated along the rivers and settled in the Kishanganj and neighboring districts of Bihar and Bengal in India.

Although it is a craft practiced in the remote villages of Kishanganj, Kheta has remained largely undocumented in the family of recycled quilts from the eastern part of India like the Sujanis and Kanthas. In its intricate geometric patterns, Kheta stands out as a contemporary expression of the modern world. The Zameen Astar Foundation (ZAF) and the Azad India Foundation (AIF) have helped bring these most exquisite embroideries to the attention of governments, national and international.

Delicate yet densely adorned with vibrant colors, Kheta embroidery is a kind of quilting (the art of stitching together layers of fabric) that has survived the onslaught of time and shares a similar origin with other recycled quilting techniques, “Kantha” from Bengal and “Sujni” from Bihar.

Over the years, however, the Shershabadi community has developed its unique quilting technique of pure geometric patterns, eschewing the figurative representations of Sujni and the circular designs of Kantha. Typically used as a blanket for newborn babies or a mattress for newlyweds, Kheta is an invaluable work of art as it is a finished product designed for everyday use.

When: March 4, 2022 – April 3, 2022

Or: National Crafts Museum & Hastkala Academy

Hourly: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.