Pottery

Black Pottery of Manipur

Black Pottery of Manipur

Black pottery or Longpi Pottery is handcrafted by Thankhul Naga tribes of the Ukhrul district of Manipur. It is a traditional craft from Manipur and derives its name from the village Longpi in Manipur, India. Longpi pottery is one unique art where the potters do not use the potter’s wheel. There is no use of chemicals, machines or wheel in

the making of this pottery.

It holds an elite status in Manipur these potteries are called ‘royal pottery’ because only the royalty and the rich of Manipur could afford and use it for cooking of meat during major occasions like marriage and Luira festival. With a black background and few motifs, this art form expunges the “great divide” of practicality and ethnicity. An absolute must for eco – friendly enthusiasts!

Almost every family in Longpi knows how to make black stone pottery, an art that is unique to this village. Whether they sell it or not, they do make the pots for their own use. The blackware pottery demonstrates how deeply traditional crafts are linked with nature.

Raw Materials

The raw materials used are weathered rock and serpentine rock, which is believed to be only available at Longpi. The artisans use basic bamboo implements and moulds made of wood and stone to obtain different shapes. The pots are moulded on logs of wood or stone slabs – all natural products

Longpi Hamlei pots and pans can be used for direct cooking over gas stoves or firewood, and are microwave-safe as well. Although several of these pottery items are decorative in design, they are conceived for utility-cooking and prepared with a basic hardiness.

Particularly, these pots are good for simmering and slow cooking for hours over a low flame, homogenizing and condensing meat and lentils. The contents of the pot continue to sizzle for a long time after it is taken off the heat, ensuring that the food continues to remain hot.

Making Process

The material used in Longpi is made from a mixture of Black serpentinite stone and weathered rock which are mixed in a three to one ratio. The strength is provided by the serpentinite rock and the weathered rock acts as a binding agent. The paste formed from these is then rolled by hand into desired shapes.

The artisans use basic bamboo implements and the appropriate movements of their body to give shape to their creations. The structures of saucer cups, kettle, frying pan, fruit bowls, cooking pot etc. are put in a kiln and set on fire for around five to nine hours till it reaches 900 degrees Celsius. After which it is polished with local leaves called Imlay (Strobilanthes cusia) and Kuhi (pasania pachiphylla) which provides the black colour and luster to its surface.

The final products are gray-black cooking pots and kettles, charming bowls, and mugs and trays, frequently accompanied with a lacing of fine cane at the handles and knobs. They have a distinctly earthy, yet contemporary appearance.

Unfortunately, the traditional markets of these products are diminishing. By developing new designs, it is our humble effort to present this fascinating craft to the contemporary buyer, hence creating a new market for this age old craft.

Products

It is believed that Longpi ham used to be the main cooking utensil among the Tangkhuls before the advent of aluminum pots. Longpi ham as of today has attained national and international popularity.

Traditionally Longpi artists make tea pots, mugs and bowls (which are heat and water resistant) for cooking, brewing country rice beer etc. They’re all black in colour, simple and almost minimalistic.

Artisans use their hands to mold these pieces of art. What gives Longpi its appeal is the finish. It is smooth and lustrous. When one touches, the fingers glide over the surface, and leave one wondering if this is stone, lacquered wood or clay. This effect is due to the presence of crushed stones mixed with clay that are naturally found in the mountains of Manipur. Today, people use Longpi pots as flower vases, decoration, serve-ware, kettles, mugs etc.

Another interesting feature is the cane weaving done as an embellishment or a design detail. The natural golden color of the cane creates a striking effect over the deep dark surfaces of these products.

Unfortunately, the traditional markets of these products are diminishing. By developing new designs, it is our humble effort to present this fascinating craft to the contemporary buyer, hence creating a new market for this age old craft.

Khavda Pottery of Bhuj

The art of Khavda Pottery started during the Indus Valley Civilisation, in the region of present-day Kutch. The gold and beaded jewellery, terracotta toys and bronze figurines, and seals with symbols found at the sites reflect the objects we use till this day. One such object, unchanged through millennia, is the earthen pot, an ubiquitous object seen all over the country.

In the small village of Khavda, Bhuj, Gujarat, for generations, craftsmen have been making earthen pots with the same process and designs as those seen in the Indus Valley excavations. Khavda is a small village at the rim of the Rann of Kutch. It has skilled craftsmen like Abdul bhai, whose forefathers migrated here from Sindh a few hundred years ago.

Process of making

While the men do all the throwing in this pottery craft, the women handle all the surface decoration, which, in this northern Kutch village of Khavda, is primarily in the form of painting. The potter gets mud from a specific acre (a lake) area near their village. It is called “Rann ki Mitti”. This soft clay is shaped into a pot on a potter’s wheel and left to dry in the shade, then Kumbhar women use red, black, and white clay-based paints to decorate each piece of pottery with distinct community-specific designs.

After a while, the pot is cleaned and put in the sun to dry, and then baked in a furnace powered by simple and locally available fuels of dry wood and cow dung. The vessels are coated with a thin wash of geru (red color). The pots of Khavda get their red colour from Geru, a type of soil (ocher/umber), and the black-and-white dots and stripes are also made with natural materials.