Thought behind the Thought
I was at a Handicrafts exhibition, when I discovered a Manipuri stall with wonderful black pots and pans. And a new form of craft that I had never heard of! The lady at the stall very enthusiastically explained how this unique pottery was crafted from stone, by crushing it to clay and then remoulding it by hand in to pots.
And I wondered as usual, about what it taught me - this process of converting very hard, black stone in to amazing pottery!
That the stone has to give up it's hardness when it gets crushed to pieces. The very quality, that defines it's 'stone-ness'! But once it does, it lends itself to a very beautiful process of 're-fromation' and reinvents itself into something incredibly beautiful. You must really be ready to let your hardened self be crushed, so that you can become plastic and mouldable, and in the process recreate yourself.
And even if this crushing of self is due to external forces, one may look at it as an opportunity to 're form'.
About the craft
Manipuri stone pottery or 'Longpi' pottery as it is called, is a traditional craft that derives it's name from the Longpi village where the Thankul naga tribes practise this amazing traditional craft.
The origins of 'Longpi Ham' pottery technique are attributed to the Panthobi, the Godess of artifact making in the Ukhrul district of Manipur and represents the process of our creation. The pottery is used for both cooking and storing food.Believed to have medicinal values, it is also used for for performing rituals on festive occasions like the Luiri festival.
The material used in Longpi is made from a mixture of Black serpentite stone and weathered rock which are mixed in a three to one ratio. The weathered rock,a black stone with emerald green veins running through it (which one might take it for a semi-precious stone) is actually a piece of weather rock or ‘leshon lung’ out of which the tribals of Longpi have, for generations, hand crafted their cooking pots. It is part of tribal Manipuri identity and lifestyle.The serpentite stone provides the strength and the weathered rock acts as a binding agent in the clay mix.
The paste formed from these is then rolled by hand into desired shapes by using the 'coiled' method. Unlike most pottery, Longpi does not resort to the potter's wheel. All shaping is done with the hand and with the help of moulds.
The process of moulding is unique. After a thorough kneading, a large slab is rolled out and shaped into a cylinder. The cylinder is placed on a circular board, which, in turn, is placed on a stool. The potter then actually moves around the clay himself, shaping and forming the pot. The pot is supported from the inside with a rounded stone and beaten to the desired shape and thickness. Great dexterity is required as the internal pressure and external movement must be well co-ordinated to produce a perfect pot. The pot is usually finished by rubbing the surface with the reddish-brown seed of a wild creeper and finally with bees wax.
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 C. The pots are functional and, more often than not, black in colour, a result of the process followed and of the smoke stains while firing.
After the firing process is complete, it is polished with local leaves called pasania pachiphylla (‘Chiro Na’ in local lingo) which provides the luster to its surface. There is no use of chemicals, machines or wheel in the making of this pottery and hence its very hygienic. Its also known to prevent morning sickness for pregnant women.
Credits and source of information