Thongjao Pottery of Manipur

Clay, Terracotta, Pottery

Thongjao Pottery of Manipur

The terracotta pottery of Thangjao is made mostly by women using slabbing and shaping techniques. It is unique in form, artisanship and the creative use of reduction firing that gives it a distinctive color.

The clay used is a mixture of red and black clay. The prepared clay is kneaded and rolled into a wide slab. This slab is then shaped into a cylindrical form and joined to a circular slab that forms the base. A wet cloth and fingers are used to shape the neck and the rim of the pot. The outer layer is patted by a flat phuzei/wooden beater while the inner layer is supported with an oval-shaped stone. Asphuzei/wooden beater with engraved patterns is also used to pat the pots to achieve the same pattern on the surface. A continuous anti-clockwise movement of the hand and stroking is an essential part of the whole process.

After the structure is made it is smoothened with kang/cactus seed following which the pot is baked in an open traditional kiln made of bamboo layered with rice husk. The pots are covered with straw and exposed to fire for a few days in the trapped smoke. In the kiln, some pots are placed inside other pots to prohibit the entry of air and consequently oxygen, that turns the clay black in color.

A mortar-pestle is also used in the production. Pointed metals are used to engrave floral and geometrical patterns onto the pots before they are baked.

Other terracotta articles made in Thongjao are cooking vessels, ritual pots, storage jars and pots, lamps, pot rings and lids.




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