Mai-Own, 2021: Artisans voice for assistance to preserve, promote black pottery

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Imphal: On the fifth day of the on-going Mai-Own 2021 Exhibition at Hapta Kangjeibung, Imphal, the unique black pottery of the state enthralled the visitors at the exhibition.

Speaking to DIPR, the black pottery artisan from Ukhrul district, Hommi Kumrah said his journey in making black pottery started in 2013 with merely Rs 5,000 in hand. With the passage of time the turnover is now around Rs 5 lakhs annually. He has been able to make the journey in making black pottery without any financial or material support from the government.

He further said that he is a 3 time State Merit Awardee and the recipient of Jewel of India Award. Informing DIPR media team, he said that he ventured into pottery making for the promotion of the tradition which is passed down from one generation to the next.

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His production unit is located at Nungpi Khullen with marketing outlets at Ukhrul, Imphal and Mumbai. The black pots are made out of serpentine rock mixed with an equal quantity of unique clay found only in Nungpi region. The raw materials undergo through an elaborate and arduous process of crushing, moulding, shaping, three fold polishing and burning to make the fibal product. Thereby, the final products found its way into the retail outlets as cups, mugs, cooking pots, bowls among others.

Speaking to DIPR about the challenges faced by him, Hommi Kumrah said that the basic raw material ‘serpentine rock’, though available locally is mined only on particular months as they are mined following the local traditional beliefs which hinders the desired quantity of production.
A lot of firewood is also required in the burning process of the mould which escalates the production cost, he added.

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He also said that other than being invited for exhibitions and fairs in the State and outside the State, he has not received any kind of financial or material assistance from the government. He expressed his desire for assistance from the State government to artisans like him which will help in preserving and promoting the traditional arts and crafts which is unique to the State. Apart from ‘Mai-Own 2021’, Hommi Kumrah mentioned that he has showcased his products in other exhibitions and fairs all over India like in Delhi, Hornbill Festival in Nagaland to name a few.

Kalpana Tharoijam from Singjamei, who retails Hommi Kumrah’s product in Imphal as proprietor of ‘PANGTHEM: The Craft Shop’ said that marketing handicraft products is tough in Manipur. Highlighting that black pottery making is a labour intensive and time consuming affair, Kalpana lamented that it is rather unfortunate that people view handicrafts as expensive and explained that as the products are intricately handcrafted from the initial stage to the final stage and takes at least 8 days to complete a single black pottery product, she added.

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With no online presence so far, Hommi Kumrah told DIPR about his plans to market his products online with the assistance from his current trade partners like Kalpana. He concluded that he is more than willing to teach and mentor committed apprentice on black pottery making so that the unique traditional black pottery making technique is passed down to the next generation. (A DIPR report)

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