Arts & Culture

African Pottery

pottery Follow the threads of the existence of the inhabitants of Africa.

pot Like data, it provides insight into the cultural exchanges of African societies. The lives they led, the paths they took, the needs they had, and the skills they had. Pottery shards found by archaeologists at ancient sites indicate that the pots were made as early as 7000 BC.

There is a sense of sublime awe when looking at beautifully formed vessels that have served their function perfectly for thousands of years.

Part art and part craft, African Pot represents both conceptual ideas and practicalities. You can begin to imagine an artist shaping with bare hands and crafting features with crude tools through them that have endured over the centuries, while being durable yet fragile.

Pots were used in rural areas to carry water, store large amounts of food and milk, cook food, and serve and drink beer. Containers built for fully functional use were easily and cheaply made as long as the clay was available locally.

However, their ideas regarding the creation of specific spiritual vessels were not rudimentary, and these potteries were, and may still be, a powerful aspect of African ritual art.

Sculpted vessels representing surface designs were a means of addressing the metaphysical needs of the community.they can be made with expressions Incised with the shape and manipulation of the spirit, or design, scribble, and refinement.

These urns were often kept in dedicated, sealed, bespoke spaces and were cared for and consulted for ceremonial purposes. Some were deliberately destroyed during ceremonies, while others have been maintained for generations.

Some traditions have now been abandoned, and the practice of making ceremonial vessels no longer exists in many communities.

process of making pot

Making a pot begins with mining and preparing the clay and mixing it with water until it reaches a malleable state. Burning sand, pebbles, old pottery, chopped dry grass and dung, sifted grains and rice husks are kneaded in to reduce the shrinkage that occurs during the drying and firing process.

These tempers are added in varying amounts, but rarely above 50%.

Nabeyaki, Burkina Faso

Pots are generally wrapped around a flat base and molded to form a smooth shape. Actual molds of pottery, wood, or gourds are sometimes used. Once it has the desired shape, it is dried in the sun and then fired for the first time in a wood fire at a low temperature for at least four hours. This can be done over a bonfire or in a more established community.

In areas of drought, wood is very difficult to obtain for this task and can be supplemented with dry cow dung.

A low circular brick wall with air holes at the bottom surrounds a thick layer of fuel on which the pot rests. Excess fuel is scattered between pots. The kiln is lit from below and the old broken pottery is placed on top to keep it warm.


After the pot is completely dry, decorate the vessel. The potter can choose to add additional shapes to the surface (such as human or animal shapes, geometric or abstract shapes), or to cut out motifs such as zigzags or cross-hatching with a sharp blade or comb. increase. Mold and attach handles and lids to decorate pots, or impress textured patterns with a roulette. Most of this decoration is done before firing and is generally more permanent and will withstand extensive use.

Post-firing decoration (most often colored or splashed with natural dye slips made of ocher or chalk) tends to be less persistent. Pots can be brushed with a liquid made from leaves, aloe or bark to give them a glossy surface.

Polishing pots are one of the main forms of decoration, where the surface is rubbed with animal fat, soot and pebbles and re-fired to a deep lustrous finish, resulting in a deep glaze effect. can do. Graphite can also be rubbed into the exterior.

Grass may be woven around the perimeter of the flowerpot to decorate it, or to increase its strength and extend its shelf life.

contemporary african pottery

Pottery is a craft that survives in various African communities. Pots are still used to transport water and beer and are manufactured according to traditional methods.

shangan potshangan pot
dhow potDow Pot, Zimbabwe

Conversely, the tradition of making pots has not always been recognized as something worth keeping, especially in this new world of plastic and tin.

For carriers, pottery is fragile, heavy, and not always the preferred choice when a container is needed to serve a utilitarian purpose.

However, there seem to be areas in Africa that could affect the survival of local pottery.

1. Developed countries involved in self-reliance programs in Africa often focus on the importance of keeping traditional skills alive, and communities that demonstrate expertise are targeted for advancement and support. increase. Older members are encouraged to pass on their skills to younger members.

Workshops were set up and potters were given financial and commercial support to bring their wares to the tourist market, or potters with special quality and the potential to achieve high returns for their efforts. They are instructed to produce high-quality products.

2. Iindividual artist Creates a very good studio item. Collectable. Today, you can find earthenware crafts in art galleries as well as in museums and private collections.

one such worker Radhi Kwari Born in 1925, from Nigeria, died in 1984. She was one of the first potters to receive international recognition for her remarkable handicraft.

Her vessels were functional in nature, yet beautifully decorated and glazed. This is a process I learned from Michael Her Kardew, who founded a pottery training center in Abuja. They are rare for this time of year and reflect a combination of her acquired skills and old mastery.

Examples of existing African pottery include:

River Gwaii Pottery, Zimbabwe

This is a company that has continued to produce during very tough times, but has produced pots of unique characters that are highly regarded and do well.

quick dismissalRiver Gwaii pottery, fired terracotta and sandpot
Gwaii unfiredGwaii pottery, unfired pots

The actual process is very primitive, but somehow gives the pot a nice character.

joint kilnGwaii Pottery Kiln
Mixed kiln 2Gwaii pottery, outside, new kiln

The growth in value of both old pieces and modern vessels is real… It is precisely this fact that keeps pottery alive in Africa.

* Haotemporary african pottery you can see here

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