The Vanishing Pots

Continuation of pottery trade in Manipur is threatened by globalising forces. Achungmei, our CC from Manipur, is sad to observe the slow disappearance of some of the beautiful crafts produced in her community, such as the handmade clay pots she shows in her video today. Having grown up surrounded by these pots in her house, she calls attention not only to their replacement by cheaper and less aesthetically pleasing plastic products but also to the economic insecurity faced by the potters who make them. Clay pots have been an omnipresent part of many Manipuri cultural and religious rituals. Before the harvests, they are carried while people chant and dance. They are placed before the doors of new homes for posterity, and filled with rice to be kicked over as a new bride or groom walks in the door. Expecting mothers are gifted clay pots, which are symbols of the womb. Achungmei's family has always stored water in these pots, believing them to keep it fresh and healthy. But plastic is cheaper and doesn't break, says Achungmei. Furthermore, the cultural significance of these pots and their connection with certain belief systems has not been fully taken up by the reluctant younger generations. Imported goods from Burma and other foreign markets are flooding Manipuri shops, and the potters are suffering a lack of demand. Achungmei accepts that some traditions will inevitably die out, but she is worried about the continuation of the trade, and the livelihoods of these artisans.

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