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Kalpuregan the Flagship Living Museum of Pottery

Kalpuregan the Flagship Living Museum of Pottery
Photo by Amin Karimi

Kalpuregan pottery, a prehistoric art craft remained unchanged

They make the world to see their identity with the least crack or change, the industry of their hands and nature in the most possible sustainable way in the 21st century. Have you ever been to see a museum with antique objects while the objects' manufacturers beside them in the museum?

This is probably the only living museum of pottery in the world: In the village of Kalpuregan, southeast of Iran, the art of pottery has remained untouched since its first art crafts were made here, several thousands of years ago. Kapal is the local name for pottery in Kalpuregan and potters are called Kapal Kashan.

Kalpuregan village is officially designated as a World Craft City for Handmade Pottery in 2020.

Several thousand-year-old potteries never get old

The first book made by mankind is the painted pottery according to Arthur Pope, American editor of The Survey of Persian Art. So it's not for nothing that Kalpuregan be addressed as the world pottery village whose earthenware carries the sign of history and culture.

You may stand and watch the pottery process while you think: "It's not that hard!", but once you hold the clay in your hand attending to create it seems nothing is harder than shaping this piece of the earth.

The answer to why Kalpuregan is not the same as the world's other pottery regions like Than Ha pottery village in Hoi Ann, Vietnam is summarized in:

  • The matter of delivering the techniques of ancestors to one's daughter from the mother generation to generation
  • Not having the pottery wheel
  •  Nor any manufactured tool designed for painting over pottery but just palm sticks
  • Sustaining the prehistoric method of pottery
  •  Preserving the thousands of year old patterns of pottery

All materials for pottery including the clay, colour for painting, required equipment, furnace and its fuel come from the location of the village.

Kalpuregan pottery village
The pottery utensils of Kalpuregan contain iron oxide which is healthy for usage, Hanie Rahmati | TasteIran

A piece of Baluchi women's soul in clay

In other parts of Iran, pottery is usually done by men, unlike Kapuregan which this traditional art has become the sole domain of women in it. Women are symbolized as life-giving like the mother earth in the ancient culture of Persia and it's the heritage of Baluchi women of Kalpuregan to create potteries with their hand.

Indeed, archaeological evidence demonstrates that Baluchi women have protected this cultural heritage for thousands of years and transmitted it from mothers to daughters over generations. This art has helped them to have a fundamental footprint in their society.

Gol Bi Bi is undoubtedly the most skilful potter of Kalpuregan whose heritage is distributed between the women of Dehvari tribe and her masterpieces have got authenticity badge several times.

Kalpuregan pottery village in Iran
The ancient art of pottery hands over from mothers to daughters, Amin Karimi | TasteIran

Connection of prehistoric pottery of Iran with today methods

The clay used to make these unique potteries come from the nearby mountain. Men are in charge of preparing the clay, by separating the impurities of the soil in a cleaning process that takes at least two days.

What also makes Kalpuregan pottery highly recognizable and unique is the red colour of pottery and paintings done by women artists on it. They use a natural dye obtained from a local stone called "Teytook", a kind of manganese stone with a brown tint which is soluble in water. With the help of a wooden stick or palm leaves, they reproduce geometric and abstract patterns. These symbolic patterns have remained almost the same for centuries which is deeply rooted in the costume and nature of Baluchistan.

Teytook stone is used for painting on potteries in Kalpuregan
The Teytook stone is brought from Birek mountain near Zaboli town for painting on pottery, Hanie Rahmati | TasteIran

Designs interpret Baluchi culture

Baluchi women indeed believe they should preserve the patterns made by their ancestors, most of which are inspired by nature. Thus, all patterns and designs carry thousands of years of history and are the intangible legacy of Baluchi artists.

Among all the patterns of pottery, Balook is the only animal geometric design resembling spirituality. Balook means Butterfly in Baluchi language and Baluchi people believe Balook is flying around the light to sacrifice itself for the love. Butterflies were the symbol of the soul according to ancient civilizations thus the evolution of its life was considered as life, death and resurrection.

Kalpuregan living museum of pottery
Potteries should remain in the furnace for 2 days after being cooked to get cold, Amin Karimi | TasteIran

A true living museum

Kalpuregan Clay Living Museum's not only a museum to observe the past, but it's also a place to see ancestral techniques being perpetuated by craftswomen. Craftswomen manufacture pottery under the eyes of the visitors, to whom they teach their ancestral techniques.

Kalpuregan potters are girls and women
 A sweet trainee of pottery in Kalpuregan village, Amin Karimi | TasteIran

Located in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan, 25 kilometres away from the city of Saravan, the village of Kalpuregan is nowadays inhabited by about 300 people, mainly dates and vegetable farmers. This region is one of the cradles of humanity, as it has been inhabited for 10,000 years.

No part of this content including texts, photos, and itinerary may be republished or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission and referring to TasteIran.
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