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TWANTE, Myanmar – For generations, the Myanmar town of Twante has been known for its thriving pottery industry. Even today, residents can be seen sitting on wooden stools beneath the thatched roofs of their homes, placing lumps of soft clay onto wheels and shaping it with the gentle press of their fingertips into pots for cooking, storing water, preserving fish or flowers.
But the opening up of this once-isolated Southeast Asian of 50 million in 2011, when ruling generals handed over power to a nominally civilian government, has affected traditional ways. Modernization and the reluctance of the younger generation to learn the art of pottery, compounded by the cost of transporting the bulky and fragile products, have turned it into an unstable, dying industry.
Yet in Twante, located on the outskirts of the bustling, commercial capital of Yangon, the older generation can still be seen heading to a nearby river to collect different types of clay, which are mixed together to acquire optimum consistency. Others toil day and night behind their potter's wheels.
And after the earthenware has been sun-dried and placed in fire kilns to harden, some can be seen helping load the pink-colored goods onto trucks so they can be transported to the farthest reaches of the country.