Black pottery – Stoneware from Longpi, Manipur

Longpi Pottery or Stone pottery is a traditional craft from Manipur, India.
Commonly known as Black pottery, the original name is derived from the village of Longpi in Manipur. This is where Tangkhul Naga tribe, make this beautiful pieces of earthenware. The inhabitants of Ukhrul district of Manipur credit the origins of this craft to Goddess Panthoibi, who is the mother of artifact-making. She represents a process towards our creation.  That is why Longpi Pottery is necessarily used in performing rituals on festive occasions like childbirth and marriage.

DSC_0284Longpi Pottery is traditionally known as ‘Longpi Ham’, and was also called ‘Loree Hamlei’ or ‘royal pottery’ because only the royalty and the rich of Manipur could afford it. They used these pots to cook food especially during special occassions like marriages. Unlike in other parts of India, the craft is practiced both by men and women.

Craft Technique

Manipuri pottery is unique in style and technique. The material used is a mixture of clay and powdered stone – Black Serpentite stone and weathered rock which are mixed in a three to one ratio.
The strength is provided by the Serpentite rock and the weathered rock acts as a binding agent. The paste formed from these is then rolled by hand into desired shapes.
The Longpi do not use the potter’s wheel. All shaping is done with the hand and with the help of moulds. The potter then actually moves around the clay, 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 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 – 1200 C. The pottery is taken out when still hot and  polished with local leaves called machee or beeswax giving it a smooth finish and providing luster to its surface. Finally finished gray-black cooking pots and kettles, mugs, trays and bowls are frequently accompanied with a lacing of fine cane at the handles and knobs.
The final products have a distinctly earthy, yet contemporary appearance. Beautifully Handmade Kitchenware.

Advantages of using Black pottery for cooking 

Specially designed for specific purposes, Longpi Pottery can be used both for cooking and storing foodstuff
– No adverse health effects – There is no use of chemicals, machines or wheel in the making of this pottery. It is known to prevent morning sickness for pregnant women.
– 100 % Natural – made from clay, stone and cane, locally available and natural raw materials are used
– 100% Handmade – this generates revenue for the locals in Manipur
– Fire-resistant pottery due to the use of Serpentine rock.
– Multipurpose – can be used on a open flame, in the microwave and is also dishwasher safe.
– The pots are good for simmering and slow cooking for hours over a low flame, homogenizing and condensing meat and lentils. The contents continue to sizzle for a long time after it is taken off the heat, ensuring that the food continues to remain hot.

P.S –  Items with cane decoration cannot be used in microwave, because cane used for decorating the item could get burnt out.

The ANTS store at Indiranagar and Whitefield Bangalore, have a collection of Longpi pottery sourced from the Manipuri artisans themselves, and many other such crafts. Do visit our store to view exquisite collections of crafts from the North East of India.

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