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February 16, 2017
For the past few years, I've been working with women artisans from Manipur - often called the “Switzerland of India.” These women craft beautiful hand-made black clay pottery, a traditional occupation passed down for many generations. Sadly this skill is fighting for survival in a world of mass production and few opportunities.
To show my commitment as a serious advocate, I set out to visit them in their villages this past December. The Artisans were shocked as no one had ever made the effort to get to know them or their art before.
Manipur, a remote province in the northeast corner of India, is a land of serene hills, exotic wildlife, and warmhearted locals. It is a place rich in culture and tradition. The trip from the capital city of Imphal to Ukhrul (the main town in the mountains) was scenic and gorgeous. It took no less than 28 hours by plane and an additional 9 hours by car to get from Chicago to the small villages of Nungbi Khullen, Longpi, Lonpi Kajui where this craft is practiced by a handful of families.
I took short videos on my Iphone (thank God for today's technology) to document the making of the pottery and spent some wonderful time with the artisans and their families. The most humbling and memorable part of the trip was when I cooked a meal right there in their rudimentary kitchen, on a wood burning fire, with ingredients pulled out from their own vegetable patch!
Though the visit was short, I was able to witness and learn first-hand the gender inequalities, political unrest, and other challenges these women face in their day to day lives. My resolve and respect for these women and their craft is stronger than ever.
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