Tuesday, January 27, 2015
The village of Longpi (or Loree) in Manipur is well-known for its age-old stone pottery art – Longpi Hamlei. The raw materials used are weathered rock and serpentine rock, which according to locals, are available at Longpi alone. The two rocks are crushed to a powder and mixed with water in a ratio of 5:3 to form a clay-like consistency. The dull-brown mixture is kneaded the entire day and flattened on a wooden board for the initial slab work. Uniquely, Longpi pots are not crafted on a potter’s wheel. Every item is shaped by hand with the help of molds and tools. Once the shaped clay has dried and is hard enough, it is taken to an open bonfire and heated for 5 to 7 hours at temperatures over 1200 degrees centigrade. The pottery is taken out when still hot and scrubbed with a local leaf known as the machee, giving it a smooth finish and nice shine. 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.
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.