Originally from the southern province of Pattani, Em-Emsophian Benjametha takes inspirations from the Islamic culture and translates them into his ceramic work. Em left home for Bangkok to enroll in an architectural diploma course at Sripatum University, before flying to France to attend a craft school in Versailles and a design school in Paris. He returned to become a designer in Bangkok for two years, then he moved back to his hometown. The Benjametha Ceramics plant which sprung up from Em’s former residence in the province is currently producing fine crafts, using the skills and know-how passed down from the locals in the area.
“What I learned about ceramics from France made me love sculpting. One can sculpt clay into anything, and this is what greatly motivates me. I started looking back on my background, on my hometown and wanted people to know about all of this. I took inspiration from my province: it is in the nostalgia, in the folk life - all linked together by religion. With the support from my family, I was able to start the Benjametha factory.”
Benjametha Ceramics is the work of Em’s passion and dedication. To this day, Em confirmed that he plans his strategies regardless of the trends and markets - but rather by taking into consideration the families and the community that he works with. He wants the wider society to learn about his area through these ceramic works made from a community factory with a strong religious and cultural identity. Turning the local mud clay into income and creating sustainable jobs for the community are also at the top of his list. His works reflect the culture and faith of the people who made every single piece of these by hand. A mix of Malayan and Muslim arts, the ceramics are the common work from people of any belief.
Throughout the years, Em has won several prizes, among which the Designer of the Year 2015 is one that he is most proud of. The personal significance of this prize is the recognition of people regardless of religion for his work.
Today, Em also creates products other than pottery, from woven fabric and goods to animal farming. Em is encouraging the locals to go back to raising regional goats that had been majorly dropped for a time: “Goat and Muslims share a strong tie. We use goats in rituals, but not for consumption - we raise cattle for that. Our rituals are a tradition that has been with us for a long time. We don’t need the sort of goats that produce a lot of meat that the authorities have offered us like we do cattle. We only need tiny ones that can be found in the area and they are almost extinct.
Em also plans to include local products from Pattani in his business. He wants to expand on the woven products by bringing in more know-how from the locals, taking on designing for mosques and writing graphic novels on faith.
Photos : https://www.facebook.com/BenjamethaCeramic/