Machihan Sasa - Pottery maker of Nungbi :: A Profile

Daniel Chabungbam *

Machihan Sasa - Pottery maker of Nungbi
Machihan Sasa - Pottery maker of Nungbi

Lori means village and Ham stands for pottery and it's not the regular earthenware made by potters across the country. Lori Ham specifically applies to the black pottery made at Nungbi village in the northern parts of Ukhrul district, Manipur.

Most of the villages of Manipur make their trademark pottery, each determined by its colours and designs. It's the Nungbi village though that has taken the lead outside the state, and made a mark with its black earthenware crafted by the Tangkhul tribe that resides in Nungbi village.

The technique of this art is said to be handed down from the Neolithic period. A unique feature of this craft is that it is crafted without a potter's wheel. Clay and black rock are the two main ingredients used for this craft. Basically a male-oriented handicraft, this craft requires a high degree of skill and attention.

The process of making is labourious. The potters deftly mould an amazing range of earthenware in various shapes and sizes. The baked pots acquire a black colour and look almost like metal. This pottery, traditionally meant for local use in the village and in neighbouring villages has attained an important place in handicraft products outside Manipur.

It is generally believed that cooking in this pottery enhances the taste of the food as compared to other pots and pans. In the olden days pottery making was confined to being a household activity with women members being the chief creators, while the men sourced the material. With the passage of time and industrialisation, black pottery gradually got replaced by others utensils.

Among the makers of this particular type of pottery Machihan Sasa is also a pioneer. Machihan Sasa was born on April 10, 1950 at Nungbi Kajui or Longpi Kajui village situated in Ukhrul district of Manipur. He learnt the art of pottery making from his late father Kuishim Sasa at the early age of 20. He had started making pottery items from 1970 onwards.

Under the guidance of Machihan Sasa many interested villagers were trained under the sponsorship of state authorities and other implementing agencies and till date, he has trained more than 300 individuals in his Nungbi village with a population of 1000 people. And most of them are able to make a livelihood by making 'chapu' (pots).

The new design of flower pots made by Machihan hit the market all of a sudden which became very popular among the people. It is found that those flower pots and the traditionally popular 'Nungbi chapu' are the most attractive items so far.

Nungbi Chaphu - Pottery maker of Nungbi  by Machihan Sasa
Nungbi Chaphu - Pottery maker of Nungbi by Machihan Sasa

Being a successful master craftsman, all his three sons and his lone daughter have now also won national and state awards in pottery.

His youngest son Mathew Sasa is now the owner of a Nungbi Chapu outlet in the India's national capital's Kidwai Nagar while his eldest son Phaningpham, daughter and district awardee Wanyola Sasa and Somi Sasa are also doing brisk business in black pottery.

Machihan attended the 'Made in North East India 2010' event held under the aegis of Industries and Trade Fair Association of Assam with the support of Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Ministry of Textiles, Government of India at Fashion Island Shopping Mall in Bangkok.

This craftsman was the lone participant from Manipur though he was joined by 3 artisans from Assam and one each from Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim during the six day exhibition cum demonstration of the items made in India's Northeastern states.

Considering the plus point of using Nungbi pots as they are known for making tastier food besides being eco-friendly, comfortable and hygienic, Bangkok based Baan Sukjai Trading Limited has recently ordered 3000 pieces of glasses and 1500 pieces of tea pot sets costing around 12 lakhs Bahts or Rs. 17.8 lakhs.

He achieved his first experience is the participation in the All India Handicraft week in December 1979 in which he received the first prize "Pottery Award". Machihan Sasa attended various state level exhibition and demonstration programme organized by the Government of Manipur Industries Department. He received the first prize for pottery display and demonstration in the State level Industrial Award held in March 1981. He also is the recipient of First Prize for Pottery Display and Demonstration in the Manipur Handloom & Handicrafts Exhibition held in March 1983.

He received 1st prize for Pottery display and demonstration in the All India Handicrafts Week held in December 1985, first prize for Pottery Display and Demonstration in the All India Handicrafts Week held in December 1986. Machihan Sasa was awarded the State Award to Master Craftsman for the year 1986-87. In 1987, he received Special Award from Deputy Commissioner of Ukhrul district on November 28, 1987. He was awarded the National Award from the President of India under the Ministry of Textiles Government of India in 1988.

Machihan Sasa conducted ATS (Apprentice Training Scheme) under Deputy Commissioner (Hnadicrafts), Ministry of Textiles, Government of India, New Delhi from 17 January 1990 for one year. He participated in the 'Train the Trainers for Master Craftsperson at R.D.T.D.C. (North East Region) under Deputy Commissioner (Handicrafts), Guwahati from 17th to 28th January, 2000. He also participated in the Short Term course at Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute, Khurja Centre from 5th to 19th December, 2001.

On 22nd December, 2004, Machihan Sasa received Special Award from the Governor of Manipur and also from the Deputy Inspector General of Assam Rifles (South) on 28th February, 2008. Machihan Sasa got the prestigious Shilp Guru Award which is the highest Award after the National Award in the year 2010.

See a Profile photo of Machihan Sasa here

Machihan Sasa - Pottery maker of Nungbi
Machihan Sasa - Pottery maker of Nungbi

* Daniel Chabungbam wrote this article for
This article was posted on September 19, 2013

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