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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The Women at ANTS

International Women’s Day, originally called International Working Women’s Day, is celebrated on March 8 every year. It commemorates the struggle for women’s rights in different parts of the world.

It is celebrated with gusto in India, more since the last 5 years or so. We at ANTS work with a lot of women, and we took this chance to know these women and turned to them for some inspiration and banter. Through these simple questions we try and to get to know a glimpse of the women working at our organisation.

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What got you started at ANTS? How has it made a difference to what you do?

What does it mean to be a Woman?

Any difference you see in your industry and other industries?
As a woman, what would you do to make it better?
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Khiri Basumatary – Weaver at ANTS

I joined ANTS in 2013 as a weaver. I like weaving and would do it at home anyways, so I started with the weaving program here. Now I am lookedup with some respect in my weaving group of Aagor. Home is always a busy place, so for weaving in peace I went to ANTS. WhatsApp Image 2017-03-08 at 9.15.09 AM

Deepali, a woman I know asked me if I can weave suta, so I agreed. Because of my work in ANTS I get to see many places, like Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai and Bangalore with fellow weavers and friends. We also got awarded in one Mumbai exhibition, it feels good.


God made me a woman, I have no qualms about it, but I have observed that Men tend to talk too much about women. When I was little, I used to think that being a man is better, but I have a different opinion nowadays.

Our lives are between the thread and loom.. so that is what we need to protect and preserve. Design makes a big difference in weaving, and the way it sells. More new design will  be better and progressive for us.I wish we have more designers and professionals get an interest in working with crafts.

Smitha Murthy – Managing Director, ANTS

I started off with ANTS (the trust) as a student,  and worked with them for my final project at Shristi. ANTS Trust was trying to start their weaving program. My final project was about that – Weaving Peace.
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This was at the time after the Bodo insurgency and unrest, so I made sure the project mission was
1. Sustainable livelihoods for the weavers
2. Promote positive stories of the Bodos

I started my project with 5 weavers in 5 villages and the aim was to make designer wear with no change in the traditional Bodo Identity or colours. Just some contemporary collection using the same.
The first exhibition happened in Delhi, and it was a huge success, it was sold out. I knew this marked something of a success and more weavers were interested in working now.

I was now back in Bangalore deciding deciding between Craft or Corporate and had started working with an export firm, believing that the ground work had been done in at ANTS after setting up a a Design cell which designers could take up work in.  But due to the political unrest maybe there wasn’t much happening there now.  That’s when I decided that I would go back  and land I stayed there for 3 years.
After a point the Design Support Centre, in Bongaigaon was full well and functioning, other states like Meghalaya realised the importance of it.  ANTS craft was then registered as an association of weavers, so it becomes a sustainable unit even when I move away.
To market the Weaves,  I had to make a marketing platform outside of the NE, so I came to Bangalore and tried to set up a space for ANTs craft and the North East, so a retail store was set up which we can now see and then later the cafe came up.

ANTS gave me the opportunity to express my creativity and I learned a lot. Northeast was then a challenging place in itself.  I was grateful for the exposure to the NE, where I got to channeling my creativity and learn,  I didn’t want work anywhere else. I’m very glad  glad I supported the larger cause of livelihoods and women empowerment.  And in a small way influenced the unrest. All of these,  Retail,  identity, design and tools, all go back to the cause,  which I never want to let go of – Livelihoods and the betterment of the people.


I feel that sometimes being a Woman is taken advantage of – this has  to be addressed everyday, and not just for one day. It is as big a cause as racism and poverty. We shouldn’t make it about one day and then still come back to the same behaviour and mindset the next. If we make it sensational, people look for stories, it just becomes a media hype.
Sometimes women are praised and hailed professionally, maybe because she succeeded in a man’s space, but she will still have to finish her responsibilities at home. It a tough balance to keep and we tend to take on more because of this. Women try and fit in too much onto their plates for the fear of freedom, it could be the freedom of money or choice. Economic Independence has overburdened some women and really overfilled their plates.


One thing I have realized after looking at many industries is that wherever there was a subject of income, it was a man’s job. I can give you a good example of that in my industry.

North East is the o2013-10-13 09.40.27nly region in India where primary weavers are Women – The rest of the country crafts have male craftsmen. This is because the weaving done at the NE wasn’t an income generating activity but a social/household activity.
Money and Income used to always decide the gender spaces.
It’s good to be aware of what you do and how it is affecting your family, society and culture as a whole. I wish more women can balance life between their duties and responsibility and independence. Beyond everything, be it professional work or home, I just hope women feel fulfilled.

I want to change the stereotypes of Gender – like Girls are better at sales and men can’t craft etc. In today’s world especially everyone should be given a fair chance. Sometimes we see a bias just in shortlisting of candidates for a position. Yes there are always variables of risk for a woman to work late etc, but we need to consider the credibility of the person before gender than just writing them off.

Shweta Shettar – Designer at ANTS

I started with ANTS on a college project, where I did a project at the Design Support center based in Bangalore, to create association between designers and the North East. I had known Smitha since college – she was a senior. I did a project witht the Mishing tribe of Dubaati near Kaziranga. When Ants started their shop I joined as a consultant now I take care of the retail and the whole sale both.

I liked the ANTS method of working with remote tribes, understanding their sensibilities and keeping their identities alive. It has changed my way of interacting with artisans, as I get to work with different Artisan groups across India. I like to work with the ANTS brand, with it’s credibility in the Industry. I get to see a lot of Perspectives – retail space, cafe, wholesale and export. You don many hats and not a little box of design, the many roles broaden my experience.

DSC_0202A woman should be independent, not just financially but also emotionally, and be fearless. I’ve met women who are apologetic for making a perfect home for her family, when she shouldn’t be. That’s a big job in itself. The barrier is in their heads, you are the biggest barrier. If you are fearless and confident, you can achieve a lot.

ANTS is a woman oriented workplace, still any workplace has to allow women independence with caution. The only hardship I had to personally experience was travelling to far off remote places, but if you exercise caution, it shouldn’t be a problem.

All the ANTS weavers, artisans should believe that you’re adding to your family, workplace. Be confident that you are contributing. We need to change the attitude towards this. I would celebrate Women’s day purely for managing work, home, children etc. Women need to feel valuable and know their value. And be confident of it.

I would say the crafts are undervalued, people do not value the art, the heritage and the hours put in. People need to be educated about the value a piece of craft holds. Not just the people working with the Artisans, but the office people and the admin as well. Handmade is sometimes just used as a tag for social work. If I say I work with crafts, people sometimes mistake it to be volunteering. The social sector has understood the value of professionalism, and vice versa. The youngsters need to know that this is a viable profession and can support families.

A big salute to ANTS for making a difference in so many women’s lives.
A hearty wish for Women’s Day from all the women at ANTS Bangalore!!

Connect with us on Facebook  – www.facebook.com/pg/theantsstore/
Website – http://theantscraft.com/

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Weaving Peace in the North East

Known to the rest of India as a beautiful and simplistic part of the country, the North East is actually a complex region. Between territorial demands of a multiple diaspora of people, the tribes and their ethnicity, a lot of people, especially women and children are affected. A lot of cultural wisdom and traditions are also endangered, as people move away to other places with the hopes of finding income and stability.

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The Bodos are an ethnic and linguistic tribal group of the Brahmaputra valley in Assam. Bodos are known as one of the finest weavers in entire North East region.The rich tradition of weaving fabrics is an inherent part of the Bodo culture. Bodo women make their own make their own traditional attire. The Bodo women are expert spinners, weavers and exceptionally skilled at handloom embroidery. They also rear Eri Silk, Muga Silk, and weave clothes out of them. Dresses and ornaments of the Bodos are the symbol of their traditional art and culture and are a source of ethnic pride for them.

Aagor write up Sep 2016

In an increasingly fast fashion driven world, there are a few designers, organizations, social enterprises working with self help groups, men and women artisans /weavers who are committed to be more cause-driven than being market-driven.

One such organisation is ANTS.

With the aim to give the BODO women a sustainable livelihood and an identity, the Action North East Trust(ANT) from Assam set up a program in 2002. In 2005 the programme, was registered as a trust called Aagor Daagra Afad.

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Aagor Daagra Afad, means ‘Design’ in the Bodo language, is now a well-known brand that has carved out its place in the Indian handloom sector for its tribal motifs and quality. They even showcased a collection ‘Aagor by Ants Craft’ in Lakme India Fashion Week in 2016.

All of this works towards empowering the Bodo tribe as well as support sustainable livelihoods that respect their dignity and great traditions. Aagor sells between 80 to 90 Lakh rupees of products and currently distributes around 35 Lakh Rupees of wages and salaries in the local area every year. They started off with just five weavers, the trust today has more than a hundred weavers.

They also engage other poor rural women, when needed for orders from buyers.This women weavers’ organization makes products which bring forward the rich weaving tradition of the tribal communities. The trust also works on issues of health,women’s empowerment,information,livelihoods & sensitizing people to press for their entitlements from the government and alternate income opportunities through weaving,agriculture & off farm activities. The contemporary products like garments,upholstery etc are sold under the brand name of Aagor.

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The simple aim of Aagor is to create and propagate a positive Bodo identity and respect traditional loom, designs and colours. The other areas where where qualitative benefits have been observed :

Gender Equity
Increased income and employment for women increases empowerment and decision making authority for women in the household and their communities.

Preserving Traditional Art forms
Stronger rural economies decrease pressure to migrate to cities and are more likely to contribute to preservation of traditional art forms of rural artisan communities.

Environmentally sustainable production
As a Fair trade organisation, Aagor encourages artisans to engage in environmentally friendly practices to manage and use local resources sustainably

Fair Trade movement
Aagor is a craft mark certified, fair trade organisation – artisans sign an MOU that they will abide by fair-trade norms like no child labour, minimum wages and so on. They are also a non-profit, so any money that is made goes back to the artisans.

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Aagor’s business plan allows women weavers to work out of their homes, so that they can attend to their families and children as well. Livelihoods are about life interwoven with vocation – creating a sustainable source of livelihood for rural women.

The movement, as we see, has just begun.
Come be a part of it. Support Aagor and buy from the ANTS.

Aagor products are stocked at The ANTS store, in Indiranagar, Bangalore and can also be found at http://theantscraft.com/

Mission

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Preserving and promoting the social and economic well being of weavers & crafts persons.

Provide  Design Support

Contemporizing the traditional craft to existing needs.

Increasing livelihoods in rural northeast India.

Stand guarantee for local producers

Increase efficiency and quality of supply

Educate, Skill and Re-Skill

Creating a space exclusively for crafts and textiles from the northeast and other tribal communities.

Brick and Mortar Retail Stores.

Generating awareness of NE Craft across global consumers.

Representing NE craft in  international forums.

Promoting positive stories about NE communities

Generate Interest and awareness of food and culture through a experiential café and art store.