Title: Traditional Clay Craft of Larkana Community: Transformation, Challenges, and Opportunities
Theme: Cultural Products, Food, Crafts: Know-how Transformation and Consumption Theory
Mr. Mehar Ali (Thari Mirwah – Khairpur Mirs’ Sindh, Pakistan)
M.Phil Student in Archaeology at Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations Quaid-e Azam Uni. (Islamabad, Pakistan)
HeritageForAll International Internship Program 2021
“Musealization of Cultural Identity”
Over the last two decades, the traditions of clay craftsmanship have been continued as one of the highest paying and sustainable industries in Sindh, but unfortunately, it has almost vanished probably because of altering the lifestyle from a rural to urbanism, thus, they left their mud-brick dwellings to the concrete shelters (Khoso, et al. 2014). There, the craftsmen were very rich that their living standards are observed in multiple places of Sindh in particular and Pakistan in general, but this craftsmanship is currently facing many challenges. Thus, an article aims to investigate the transformation, challenges, and opportunities of this traditional clay craft and craftsmanship in Sindh especially Larkana where is considered the clay craftsmanship hub. While clay is the main pillar of making the cultural products in this region along with the last centuries, the indigenous tribes, who are associated with and still working in this craft, might be divided into two groups: firstly, clay artisans; secondly, the mudbrick builders.
Over many centuries, clay craftsmanship has been continued and transformed from one generation to another as a significant art – including clay, ceramics, and pottery – in the south-Asian countries. The art of clay and ceramics come authentically to the Sindh civilization (Misra 2001). As a result of this cultural source, it has been found out that there are many sorts of clay handicrafts and pots which were decorated with Kashi Karry.
Larkana community is still known in the region with clay craftsmanship community. Although there are many types of clay products by this aforementioned community, unfortunately, pots and pottery are considered the most prominent cultural product nowadays. Kumbhar, as an ethnic or indigenous group, is considered one of the main tribes which are still working in this craftsmanship as a significant part of the cultural identity; as well as Channa, Mallah, Abro, etc. Kumbhar is still reviving the craft and techniques as their ancestors taught. The clay craft is a systematic process that has many consequence-based steps. For instance, the mud or clay is extracted from harsh grounds; then, it is further being mold and scolded with hands and later, to store the mud or clay for a period; then to form by a pedal machine; finally, Kashi Karri – coloring step. (Sethi et al. 2020) The whole members of the tribe are working in the craft (male and female).
A decade ago, there were many local and international markets in Sindh that have been created and became a convenient space to present their products. In contrast, at the current time, this craftsmanship faces many challenges, e.g. the aforementioned markets have been paused either by the governmental bodies or the private sector enhancing this craft and its community.
Larkana is a district located in the north-western Sindh, the south of Pakistan. Originally, it was called “Chandka”. Mohen Jo Daro is considered the most common city by the transformed manifestations of the Indus valley civilization, its cultural products, and rural practices as well. According to Pakistani statistics 2017, the population is around 490,508. (Oad et al. 2020) The region is well-known majorly for its agriculture-based activities especially the rice crops and guava orchards. In addition to clay handicrafts, a large portion of the population is working in agriculture as a main economic source of their livelihood.
The layout of Larkana is divided into two main parts: a city and a village including the small towns, villages, and local markets where cultural products and other objects are sold by the local artists and other promoters. Regarding rice cultivation, the main traditional food in this region is fish and rice either at breakfast or at dinner, as well as rice bread with Saag and Palli. Rural and local villages of Larkana are the main sources of the cultural products that currently face multiple difficulties and problems.
Transformation, Challenges, and Opportunities
Historically, clay craftsmanship provided many job opportunities as well as other commercial activities for the regions’ inhabitants. In addition, there are many international visitors who are so interested to come and learn the heritage knowledge of the clay craftsmanship. (Mughal, 1992) Scanning the current statement, the author do a group of interviews with the craftsmen and others who directly or indirectly deal with the craftsmanship and are going to do a shift career looking for other professions because there is no demand for craftsmen with a convenient salary and also they don’t recieve a good number of requests producing handicrafts. Moreoever, they referred that the current kind of customers are looking for the showpieces, toys, pottery, clay ornaments, entertainment objects, the replicas from Mohen Jo Daro in the positions of king-priest, dancing, girl, and figurines. Currently, the raw materials of clay dunes, in Sindh, becomes so expensive with few amounts as well.
In many regions of Pakistan, the factories and workshops of the cultural products, espeically the traditional clay craft, use the modern technology, for instance, in Multan Punjab province and in Hala Bhitt Shah Sindh province. In Sindh, there are two distinct clay techniques, one dates back to Indus Valley Civilization, and another one belongs to the Islamic period in Sindh (712 A.D.). Unfortunately, the most of the Indus valley traditions were replaced by the Muslim craftsmen’s techniques which the local artisans adopted in Multan (now, it is a part of Punjab region). Historically, Multan was an integrated as a part of Sindh, and Banbhore was an ancient harbor and city conquered by Muslim general Muhammad Bin Qasim Al-Mansura. So, it has been realized that Arab founded the city Multan (now, it is ruined). Muslim techniques of the clay craft became localized under their rule at different periods in the province, but its influences were deliverd in the whole Larkana region.
Research studies , which have been undertaken over 20 years, clarify the continuity of clay craft techniques and its cultural practices in Sindh, such as the working method, decorative designs and motives, and the materials. Although there are some craftsmen who seek transforming and learning the traditional craft from the ethnic families Kumbhar, Kashgar and Kashi Kari/Kashigari especially in the craft of glazed decoration on terracotta / clay pottery, it has been observed that there are many technical changes which were added.(Salim, 2016)
All these objects are locally available in the surrounding markets of Larkana, as well as throughout the country itself. Although the aforementioned obstcales that the traditional craft faces, there is a good opportunity that the local community in the province still preferes to drink the water from these local pottery and also to cook in it. (Vincentelli, 2000)
In Larkana village “Bhalerji”, there is a group of craftsmen who are still working and producing more attractive clay products. Recently, they have depicted the scenes of Sindhi cultural practices on the walls of Mohen Jo Daro museum. Over the last decade, they are associated with the work of making local cultural material and they supply it to the surronding markets. According to an interview withwith Mr. Aizaz Ali Peerzado – a Social Activist, he has asserted that at the time, those craftsmen face problems due to an absence of the governmental financial support promoting and sustaining the clay craft and its handicrafts as a major source of livelihood for Sindh community. (Khan, 2011)
Local Market of Terracotta Cultural Objects in the Rural Areas of Sindh
Transformation, in other words, we can say as the cultural development of modern domestic artistic practices. Some decades ago, there were simple technologies in this respect. The clay, water, wheel Chakra/ Chak, kilns, and fuel for kiln are the basic tools of manufacturing these products and its decoration.
Craftsmen are two types. Firstly, those who are experts in the making pottery, traditional Kumbhar, and others are the locals who are experts in manufacturing small, human figurines, male-female, birds, animals, ornaments, musical instruments, and other interesting objects, which is consists on local people, another artist girl calling “Samreen Solangi” from the rural area of Larkana near to Mohen Jo Daro, her house’s economy is based on the handicrafts which she manufactures from the clay, her art is not only available in local markets, but also exhibited in Karachi (a metropolitan city of Pakistan). In an interview, she mentioned that she was first going to Karachi on an event where her objects were exhibited. She expressed that “I was thinking that there is something inside me through which I visited the largest city of the country” when she was asked that what is it she replied that “my art”. But unfortunately, after the COVID-19 reached, her economy is affected.
There are multiple efforts were taken to revive this clear tradition but not all of them went fruitful and effective enough due to multiple reasons and causes and prominent among them is the lack of technical knowledge and the expertise of the researchers. Moreover, from recent history, we can find out that there are multiple funds which were granted from the governance system for the clay craft’s continuity but sadly, none of them reaches for the community.
Some craftsmen mentioned that there are no funds which are utilized for developing the craft. Mostly people, from the villages and rural areas, were responsible for guranteeing the continuity but later most of Kumbhars are right now deciding to leave for the cities to earn a better income end sustain their livelihood. Furthermore, there are multiple stories can be heard from different craftsmen about the success and achievements that they have got from the art.
The profession was one of the greatest ever and it has ruled over the hearts of rulers and households for their handicraft only products made up of clay. Those people believe that there were the days when products made above clay and earthen were very familiar within the household and for commercial purposes as well. Many craftsmen strategically specified that the survival for this industry cannot be done without a complete understanding have the problem as well as without a comprehensive and concrete plan.
Although people are so consolidating for continuing this tradition as they believe, they don’t want to leave it at any cost. One of the cases, from Hala Bhit Shah, was expressed the younger generation passionate for continuing the legacy of their generations. They consider that they have learnt this ancient art preserving and transforming for the upcoming generations. They’re supposed to continue it without any interventions. In contrast, this passionate faces a great challenge because of the policymaking and the lack of the governmental support preserving the clay craft and craftsmanship while there are multiple families that associate with the clay craft with a great talent, but unfortunatley, they are so poor and suffer the lack of apprenticeship education and how to market for their cultural products instead of communicate with the market mediators who charge the craftsmen very low rates of revenues. (Junejo, et al. 2008) Many producers said that there are certain chances to earn a great chunk of revenue if they are offered good machinery as well as subsidy on electric supply which ultimately will boost the inventory circulation process.
Technical Recommendations and Suggestions
Reviving the clay craft and craftsmanship, the author suggests that the local government has to market these cultural products nationally, regionally, and internationally. The government should provide a feasible market for the craftsmen. He suggests that the banks and companies provide simple loans for the craftsmen and others who work directly or indirectly in the clay craftsmanship covering them with the informative installments.
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