Among the many traditional art forms that flourish in this enchanting state, Meghalaya’s black pottery stands out. These are created using regional methods that have been handed down through the generations. The method used to create these pots makes this type of pottery distinct despite the materials employed.
The Origins of Meghalaya’s Black Pottery
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Meghalaya’s black pottery has a history that dates back centuries. Its origins are closely tied to the indigenous Khasi community, who have preserved this traditional craft through generations. Black pottery is the craft of creating ceramics using black clay combined with serpentine stone, or Khiew-Ranei in the native language. The males normally work to get the black clay and the serpentine stone because only the women in the area construct these pots.
The black clay used for making these pots is found abundantly in the region, primarily near the riverbanks. This clay is known for its natural dark hue, which lends the pottery its distinct colour and name. The artistic tradition of creating black pottery has been passed down from one generation to another.
These exquisite pieces are used in various aspects of Khasi life, from daily domestic use to religious rituals and ceremonies. The Khasi people use black pottery for cooking, storing grains, and serving food, as well as for offering sacred offerings during their ceremonies and festivals.
The art of black pottery also plays a significant role in preserving Khasi folklore and mythology. Many of the decorative motifs on the pottery are inspired by traditional stories and legends, making each piece a carrier of cultural heritage. Moreover, the making of black pottery has often been a community effort.
Techniques & Artistry
Meghalaya’s black pottery is crafted using traditional hand-building techniques, with the potter’s skill and creativity being the central elements in the creative process. The entire process involves several distinct steps, each requiring precision and expertise.
The following is a lengthy process that goes into manufacturing black pottery:
- The first step in the entire procedure involves removing the black clay from the soil, which is often done in the winter.
- Following the gathering of the black clay, the serpentine stones are gathered, crushed, combined with the clay, and processed.
- The next step involves creating the clay and shaping the objects’ shapes.
- After that, the pots are left outside to dry in the sun.
- The pots are placed over an open fire (open-kin) after being formed, dried, and hammered into shape.
- Typically, this step of the procedure takes three to four days.
- The pots are next stained using the colours taken from “u dieng sohliya,” signifying the completion of the procedure.
The artisans behind Meghalaya’s black pottery are the custodians of this craft. They hold the knowledge, skills, and traditions passed down through generations. These skilled potters are often from families with a long history of working with black clay. Especially women.
While Meghalaya’s black pottery is a treasured cultural tradition, it faces several challenges in the modern era. The rise of mass-produced ceramics and a lack of infrastructure to promote and sell black pottery have posed economic difficulties for the artisans.
So, the next time you are in Meghalaya, take a moment to appreciate these art forms in an ever-evolving world, where traditions are often at risk of fading away.
Cover image credits: Website/Meghalaya Tourism