Hands-on with tradition

Aug 08, 2018, 07:04 IST | Dalreen Ramos

A walkthrough the city's oldest potters' locality in Kumbharwada promises to connect art students and enthusiasts with the traditional form

Hands-on with tradition
Abbas Galwani (right) at the Dharavi studio that he runs with his brothers. Pics/Bipin Kokate

Jingdezhen, a town in the northeastern province of Jiangxi in China, is known for white gold, or simply, porcelain. Bustling with small garages and workshops of local artisans, it has been dubbed the "Porcelain Capital". And 38-year-old Abbas Galwani, a potter based out of the narrow lanes of Kumbharwada in Dharavi, was so inspired by its artistic magnificence, that his determination to achieve a residency in the Chinese town translated into the development of an exclusive skill.

The Galwani family hailing from Karachi has crafted diyas and matkas for Bollywood sets
The Galwani family hailing from Karachi has crafted diyas and matkas for Bollywood sets

Giant pots are manufactured in Jingdezhen. This requires artisans to master what is known in pottery lexicon as "throwing," which refers to the shaping of the clay from the time it touches the wheel. It all seems elementary until the clay totals an approximate of 200 to 280 kilos. Add one and a half hours to that equation, and Galwani is the man to get the job done, and perhaps, the only one in the country to do so, too. Although being in pottery, according to him, doesn't do much harm to the profit margins, the industry is stuck in a rut.

Diyas

"We do not receive funding from the government unlike other countries. So many potters resort to imported materials, when we can in fact, make them here ourselves. But how will that become a reality when there is no investment in skill development?" he asks. A third-generation potter, Galwani is keen on imparting both, traditional and contemporary skills to newcomers and art enthusiasts. He will be the guide for a walkthrough hosted by the Department of Ceramics and Pottery of IES College of Architecture— taking participants through the ancient pottery village in Mumbai, where it all began with his grandfather, Ismail Galwani, who in 1921 travelled from Sindh to Kutch before settling in Kumbharwada. Unlike other artisans in the vicinity, Galwani's works go beyond ovenware, and he also has international collaborations to his credit.

A variety of contemporary pots created by Galwani
A variety of contemporary pots created by Galwani

Yashashree Shildhankar, head of department, who has been teaching across colleges in the city, realised the lack of connect students experience when they are confined to a studio space. "During my college years, I recollect visiting Kumbharwada and there was so much inspiration to be drawn. These days, there is a shift towards the contemporary art form but what we see is only imitation, not innovation," she explains. Shildhankar, who recognised Galwani's unique ability to embrace and fuse both old and modern, says that it is important to know the fundamentals than directly skipping to the basics. "As we move ahead, you realise that the form keeps changing but the functionality and concept always stay the same.

Yashashree Shildhankar
Yashashree Shildhankar

A lot today can also be drawn from the Indus Valley civilisation. So, the knowledge of history
always helps with the future. There is nothing like the 'old touch' of things," she adds.

As for Galwani, he hopes to give an insight into what is stopping Kumbharwada from being a pottery capital. "Participants will stand a chance to learn the technical know-how as well as the commercial aspect. But more importantly, they need to understand what is lacking today," he says.

ON August 10, 9 am
AT Kumbharwada Road, Social Nagar, Dharavi
EMAIL iespottery@ies.edu
COST Rs 100

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