ISLAMABAD: Huddled together under a tree on a summer afternoon, a group of nine students sat on the grass while soft classical music played. They recollected the lessons learnt over the eight-day pottery making workshop “Earth, Air, Fire and Water” which concluded at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts here on Monday.
The workshop offered a crash course in the craft: from preparing the mud to sculpting it and eventually baking in the kiln. “Pottery making is a living tradition and almost on the verge of extinction now,” said Sherazade Alam, the instructor. The idea of the workshop was to engage the participants in realising the importance of the four elements and respecting them, she added.
The participants comprised an interesting mix. Three master artisans working under Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (PODA from Chakwal), who were also joined by the PODA Executive Director PODA Executive Director Sameena Nazir. The rest were teachers, with only one man who had travelled from Lahore to attend the workshop.
The art form is a great activity to engage rural children, said Nazir. “The rural areas have no entertainment for children. Women in particular are not allowed to step outside their homes. Our master artisans will carry out workshops to teach and entertain the young ones about this craft,” she added.
The students proudly displayed their finished products and received certificates from Alam. They discussed the plight of master artisans who form an ignored part of society and seem to have lost pride which in turn was affecting their work.
Alam introduced Mohammad Niaz, an elderly man who had been invited as acting instructor on the last day. Though master potter in Saidpur village, he has been completely obscured. “Instead of promoting the locals and preserving the village, the place has become a food court. Its beauty has been put on the backburner,” said Alam.
In the end, everyone lined up for photographs displaying their certificates with evident pride of having achieved so much in such a short span. “Even though I’ve mastered paper mache, its good to learn something new,” said Deeba, a master artisan from Chakwal. She pointed out to little pots and vases before carefully wrapping them in cloth and said with a smile, “This is my work”.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2012.
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