Artist Statement: Archana Kumari

Archana Kumari is a folk artist from Bihar. At a young age her talent was recognised by visitors from the Asia Society and she received the extraordinary opportunity to travel to New York. Now having learnt English and acquired confidence she works as an independent artist in Delhi, commissioning extra work from women in her village. Archana is ready for creative challenges. Contact us for details.

Archana Kumari selling her worksI come from the village of Ramnagar in Bihar. I started my journey out into the world at a tender age with Drawing Stitching embroidery. The turning point came when international opportunities knocked at my door. My journey to the West started as a young teenager when my quilts were exhibited at the Asia Society, New York .

Girls from my region are not educated much. I wanted to show society that a girl could do all a boy can do. It was very hard to make people in the village understand this. Luckily, my family understood and allowed me to go in for higher studies. Against all odds, I have completed my studies in Fashion & textile (knitwear design) from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi.

My heart is strongly attached to my roots, yet I have the curiosity to explore what the world outside. I learnt sujuni  when I was a little girl from my mother. Sujuni is a term for straight running stitch embroidery on layered cotton and silk fabric, with the density of stitches per square inch varying from 105 to 210. A fine running stitch all over the sheet in the same colour as the base cloth creates the background upon which motifs are outlined in chain stitch. The design is then filled in with tiny running stitches in coloured experiences and creating sujuni based on my designs.

The benefit of being a folk artist is that you draw from a pool of knowledge that is very central to your life. It’s like ones mother’s tongue and therefore I can express myself best through this medium.

Archana Kumari embroideryMy creations are manifestations of the serious concern for my village, my nation and the world. Each sujuni tells a tale- the trauma of being a woman in a man’s world, domestic violence, female infanticide, effects of alcoholism and gambling on a family and similar issues. Social concerns like evils of dowry, education of girls, lessons in health-care and AIDS are also depicted. The delicate intricacy of my embroidery highlights the plight of rural women or creates a visualization of a peaceful world. Through the medium of Sujuni embroidery, I very humbly appeal to people to do away with the evils of the society and develop a more humane approach towards life.

Archana Kumari embroideryThe New York trip was full of ‘first-time’ experiences. Travelling so far from my village to New York changed my view of the world. I saw huge buildings, straight roads, traffic lights, pet shops full of clothing for animals and so many new things.  On the Staten Island ferry, I saw the Statue of Liberty close up. ‘Lady Liberty’ has become my symbol for freedom in life.

When I came back to India, I made a large embroidery New York City depicting all that I saw firsthand. I loved it and so did everybody who saw this piece.

My idea in creating my New York series of embroideries is based on a hope that my work will inspire others to choose the difficult path of freedom and to express their ideas in their art.

3 thoughts on “Artist Statement: Archana Kumari”

  1. I would like to contact Archana. In the late 80s/early 90s we were in touch through mutual friends Sita & Viji Narsimhan. I arranged for filming with Archana in New York, planned to make a documentary which I couldn’t get financed, and helped support Archana going to design school. I so loved her work and courage and we never met face to face, something, years later, I would love to happen. Please let me know how we can be in touch. Holly

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