Small Pottery Wonders of Rural India make way to Australian Home in a remote location far away from Melbourne
A trip to the potters' village near Uttam Nagar at Sainik Enclave Kumhaar Colony is paragon showing the sharp urban-rural contrast in Delhi. The unauthorised colony, which gradually got inhabited in last 25 years or so, is even deprived of safe drinking water, let alone roads to walk on, not even basic medical facility beyond 8 kms. These adversities through requisite interventions are now brought to attention by South Asia Foundation. The Foundation's interventions are not only meant for economic betterment but also for social upliftment and over all development in that area through larger community participation, mostly consisting of potters in that area. This community driven development project, initiated by the Foundation, has started showing some positive results.
Today was a meeting with a potter Sanjay Kumar (his capacity was built by SAF) who is fortunate to have his house reconstructed with low cost housing technology and architectural design with the support of the Foundation. This is one of the community driven concrete steps taken by Sanjay that is expected to encourage the potters’ community further. An interaction, with his wife Bunty and other potters, reveals how happy they are to be able to shift in a new 2 storied house with neatly designed work shed and enough space for children and a new improved kiln to reach and retain high levels of temperature to increase productivity. A dream come true for the family, the future occupants are very excited to move into their new home with all modern looks and secured architectural design, optimal utilisation of space and, most importantly, aesthetic look. The plan is ready and construction will begin in a week’s time.
Another meeting with a highly experienced and a well known potter Manohar Lal and his 7 member potter family with a pottery supporter from Australia Ms. Sandra Bowkett. She suggested that Manohar, with another potter Dharamvir, will to go to Australia to attend workshops with the support of SAF and will get an opportunity to produce and sell Indian pottery items specially the earthen matkas. These simple pottery items have gained popularity there in recent time, thanks to the initiative of this Australian lady, a potter herself. Sandra, for her love of pottery and development, not only arranges workshops for these potters but also exhibitions and bring students from schools and colleges who are eager to take up this art as part of their hobbies, extra-curricular activities or even careers.
What started as a cross country cultural exchange project and a demonstration of Indian pottery items to encourage young people to appreciate artisans’ way of life and also to create environment awareness at a tiny village in Australia, near Tallarook, has now found its way to many homes in remote locations, in tiny little villages near Seymour, 51 miles off Melbourne in Australia. These Matkas (earthen water containers), made by these Indian potters, are quite a popular item as these encourage energy efficiency via reducing the uses of refrigerator and create environmental awareness. The matkas, used for storing water, could increasingly become a substitute for refrigerators in these country sides of Australia.
With the world showing huge concerns over climate change and demanding immediate mitigating measures, it is a wonder to a great extent that a neglected art can contribute by way of traditional conservation and ecological protection. In Australia a matka, made by these Indian potters, are being sold for 30-40 Aus. dollars which is easily more than 80 times than what it sells in India. One can easily derive the popularity from this figure. These Indian potters, though a very small in number, at the end of the day gain a learning hands-on experience and find a brilliant way to make some extra earning apart from the routine activities. These earnings raise hope in them to construct better designed housing cum work-shed and meeting other immediate larger needs. A recent exhibition at Gurgaon Epicentre, organized by the India Habitat Centre, during Diwali festival gave opportunity to three potters’ families from this village to add on income for future security with the support of the Foundation
The Foundation has also been organizing regular medical camps in this area to bring medical support at the door steps of these potters. One of such medical camps will be organised soon by the Foundation to provide all round medical help to these potters.
These achievements of the Foundation mark the beginning of an all round development of the potter community in a holistic manner that could make a way for finer settlement of these artisans with dignity and honour. These potters’ families, who came from surrounding States and making Delhi their home and pottery their only living, could contribute in reducing climate change and eventually protect this city from further environmental hazards and reduce ecological destruction if provided with direction and opportunity.
Rahul Barua and Nikita Agrawal
Initiative For Development of Pottery