How status has impacted the art of making pottery in Gangzur

Although Gangzur Gewog in Lhuentse is well known for pottery, there are, however, only three artisans who practice the art of making pottery for commercial purposes in the whole gewog. This according to the gewog gup, Kinzang Dorji is due to the fact that the potters have always been looked down by the community from olden days.

“Today, there are only 2 women and a man involved in the art of making pottery in the gewog. They are operating their businesses from a shed and rooms established with the help of an NGO. There are not many who wish to take up the art of making pottery despite training assistance from Tarayana Foundation as it requires hard work and worse, potters are considered the lowest in terms of social status,” said Gup Kinzang Dorji.

Tshewang Choden and Zangmo learned the art of making pottery from their grandmothers and mothers while the only educated youth Sonam Tobgay took pottery after undergoing training with the help of Tarayana Foundation.

Tashi Wangmo, who is assisting her 61-year-old aunt Tshewang Choden with the business, said that with only three potters in the gewog, they are finding it difficult to meet the rising demand for the earthenware from urban areas.

“Since my aunt, Tshewang Choden is the only potter, we face significant shortages of human resource in terms of skills and abilities. I tried learning the art but it is complicated and tiring. She also added that there are also difficulties in procuring the right firewood needed for ‘firing or baking’ the pots for its longevity,” said Tashi Wangmo. She added that roughly a total of 30-40 pots are sold in a day and at times, find it difficult to meet the demands.

Sonam Tobgay pursued pottery making business after completing higher education with the support from Tarayana Foundation and said that he foresees a bright future as a potter.

“Today, youths are mostly looking for desk jobs without having to dirty their hands and consider potters as a low-caste group. However, I see it as an opportunity and I’ve grabbed it, and at the same time I see a very bright future in making pots due to the rising demands and handful of artisans,” said Sonam Tobgay.

He said that it would be great of help if technical and training assistance is provided to ensure the sustainability of the art and encourage more youths to take up the art of making pots in the future. “At the moment, I do not use a machine to make pots as I have very limited training and one need to undergo advanced training in order to operate the machine. So, that way we will be able to meet the demands and the process will be less strenuous,” said Sonam Tobgay.

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