<strong>Longpi</strong> (pronounced as “long-pee”) is a general reference to two villages (Longpi Kajui and Longpi Khullen) in <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukhrul_district">Ukhrul District</a>,<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manipur">Manipur</a>. Longpi is located at . Longpi is about 37 kilometers north of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukhrul">Ukhrul</a>,<sup><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longpi#cite_note-1"></a></sup> connected by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Highway_150">National Highway 150</a> (Imphal-Kohima via Ukhrul and Jessami Highway). The two villages together have a population of over 8000.
Longpi is flanked by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khamasom">Khamasom</a> in the east <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sihai_(Khullen,_Khunou,_Kahaophung)">Sihai</a> in the southeast, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunghar">Lunghar</a> in the south, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phungcham">Phungcham</a>, Paorei, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peh">Peh</a> in the west and<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalhang">Kalhang</a> in the North.
Longpi is famous for age old pottery making locally called Longpi Ham. It is believed that Longpi ham used to be the main cooking utensil among the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tangkhul">Tangkhuls</a> before the advent of aluminum pots. Longpi ham as of today has attained national and international popularity. Longpi pottery is one unique art where the potters do not use the potter's wheel. Presley belongs to the Tangkhul Naga tribe of the village of <a href="http://goo.gl/maps/I0jqP">Longpi (or Loree) in Manipur</a>. Longpi is well-known for its age-old stone pottery art – Longpi Hamlei. Presley is special, because she and 16 other women of the village together formed a “Loree Hamlei” Village Pottery Collective seven years ago that makes and markets this form of pottery. Longpi Hamlei cookware has gained popularity all over India and is being supplied to niche craft stores across the country and even abroad.
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Longpi ham is made from a mixed paste of ground black serpentinite stone and a special brown clay. As claimed by the locals, the clay is native to only Longpi village. After the pots are shaped, polished and sun dried they are heated in a bonfire and thereafter polished with a special tree leaf locally called Chiron ni. The black color of Longpi ham is a result of polishing the heated earthen pots with the tree leaf. Pottery is the secondary occupation of the populace and is the main source of income for the artisans. Black pottery is a very rare kind of pottery, made only in Manipur and not easily available everywhere.
Black pottery has a very old history. It was known as LOREE HAMLEI also called 'Royal pottery' because only rich and dignified noble families could afford to buy them. They used these pots to cook food especially during special occassions like marriages.
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If you are of the opinion that these pots are painted black to bring that colour, then I am sorry to say that you are completely wrong. These pots are made from a special type of rock called 'The black serpentine rock' that is naturally black in colour, available only in certain hills of Manipur. The craftsmen collect these rocks, crush them and convert it into a powder. The powder is then mixed with water to form a paste. The beautifully shaped cooking pots, mugs, kettles and many more beautiful items are made with hands only. The craftsmen do not use even a potter's wheel because this material cannot be shaped using a potter's wheel. Thus it requires lot of skilled labour for its making. The pots are made by the tribes of Manipur.
The raw materials used are weathered rock and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpentinite">serpentine rock</a>, which according to locals, are available at Longpi alone. The two rocks are crushed to a powder and mixed with water in a ratio of 5:3 to form a clay-like consistency. The dull-brown mixture is kneaded the entire day and flattened on a wooden board for the initial slab work. Uniquely, Longpi pots are not crafted on a potter’s wheel. Every item is shaped by hand with the help of molds and tools. Once the shaped clay has dried and is hard enough, it is taken to an open bonfire and heated for 5 to 7 hours at temperatures over 1200 degrees centigrade. The pottery is taken out when still hot and scrubbed with a local leaf known as the <em>machee</em>, giving it a smooth finish and nice shine. The final products are gray-black cooking pots and kettles, charming bowls, and mugs and trays, frequently accompanied with a lacing of fine cane at the handles and knobs. They have a distinctly earthy, yet contemporary appearance.