A young boy stands at the base of the clay pit where potters from Bondakile mine the clay they use for making pottery. Soils from upper and lower levels are mixed together to make a workable potting clay. Children help relatives who are potters to dig and process the clay. Two photos. Bondakile, October, 1982.
After drying, potting clay is stored in potters' houses until needed. When the potter is ready to make a batch of clay pots, she will first pound and then sift the clay. The sifted clay is then mixed with water and kneaded until it is the right consistency for making a pot. Dorbour, 1994
Yakosua, a Nafana potter, mixes sifted potting clay with water in preparation for making a batch of clay pots. One large metal pot (left) contains the pounded, sifted clay and the other (right) contains water that she mixes with the clay. She mixes the two in a headpan, kneading the clay to achieve the right consistency for making pots. Dorbour, 1994.
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University of Victoria Libraries
Women's work; Metal pots; Clay; Dorbour; Headpans; Potting
Potting clay is spread to dry after being mined and brought to Dorbour by a potter, perhaps aided by her relatives. The clay includes a combination of plastic clay (chͻklͻlͻ in Nafaanra) and sandy clay (sisa in Nafaanra) which are mixed together at the place where the clay is mined. After drying, the clay will be pounded, sifted, mixed with water and kneaded until the clay is the right consistency. A potter only mixes as much clay as she needs to make a batch of pots (6-8). Children may help with the work of pounding and kneading the clay. In the background, houses made of atakpame (coursed earthen-walls) with thatched roofs are visible. Dorbour, 1994.
A man transports a clay pot, carefully strapped to the back of his bicycle and cushioned beneath by coiled grass leaves. He is returning from one of the potting villages where hs has purchased the clay jar from a potter. More often, pottery was taken to markets by headloading, sometimes sold by potters, but also by women who traded in clay pots. Banda area, 1994.
This short Banda Heritage video made from still photographic images illustrates the potting techniques of Banda-area potters. It highlights the steps in their draw-and-drag forming method and the tools they use. Among the Nafana potters pictured in the video are Yaa Tenabrɛ, Adwoa Fodjoa, Peni Krah and Ama Donkor from Dorbour. Also pictured is a potter from Adadiem (1994) and an image from Bondakile (1982). Original images used to make the video are available in the Banda Heritage Repository. Dorbour, Adadiem, 1994. Bondakile 1982. Length: 5.05 minutes.
A group of unfired clay pots to which red slip (chuma in Nafaanra) has been applied prior to firing. The string of Babobab tree seeds (foreground) is used to burnish the slip. By rubbing the dried slip vigorously with the seeds, the slip adheres to the surface and becomes shiny. To the right rear are several unfired clay eating bowls (kpokpoo in Nafaanra). Dorbour, 1994.
Afua Donkor, a Nafana potter, burnishes a dried but as-yet unfired clay pot on which she has applied a red slip (chuma in Nafaanra). She uses a strand of Baobab tree seeds (wasawasa in Nafaanra) to rub the slip, helping the color to adhere to the pot's surface and giving it a sheen. The base of the pot is left unslipped. Dorbour, 1994.
Akua Donkor, a Nafana potter, etches grooves onto the leather-hard surface of a clay cooking pot (sro chͻ in Nafaanra) before it is fired. The lower part of the jar has been surface treated using a maize cob (bledjukaan in Nafaanra) as a roulette. This gives the pot surface texture, over which the grooved design is made. She wears bracelets that sometimes double as tools to decorate pots. Dorbour, 1994.
During the 20th century, potting took place primarily in villages west of the Banda hills (Dorbour, Dumboli, Bondakile). But based on oral histories and archaeological evidence we know that pottery was made more widely across the area in earlier centuries. Here Ann Stahl makes notes on an old clay pit located east of the Ahenkro-Bongase road a short distance south of Bongase. Chuli mountain is visible in the distance. Tall grass characteristic of the rainy season covers the area. South of Bongase, 1990.
A potter completes decorations on a clay cooking pot (sro chͻ in Nafaanra). Another pot sits nearby, turned upside down. The lower bodies of the pots have been surface treated by rolling a maize cob (bledjukaan in Nafaanra) across the leather-dry surface of the clay jar. Shallow grooved lines have been etched over top. The clay jars are now ready to be fired. Dorbour, 1994.
A potter uses a metal bracelet as a roulette to make shallow grooves on the leather-hard surface of a cooking pot (sro chͻ in Nafaanra). She rolls the bracelet across a surface that has been textured using a maize cob (bledjukaan in Nafaanra) roulette. Next she will make shallow grooves along the boundary between the smooth upper body of the jar and the maize cob-routletted lower areas. Dorbour, 1994.
This short video made from still photographic images shows how potters mine and process the clay they use to make pots. The video includes images of Mo potters in Bondakile and Nafana potters in Dorbour, including Yakosua. Original images used to make the video are available in the Banda Through Time Repository. Bondakile, 1982. Dorbour, 1994. Length: 2.25 minutes.
Yaa Tenabrԑ, a Nafana potter, stands as she uses a spatula-like tool to smooth and thin the walls of a large clay pot which she is molding. She has shaped the pot using a draw-and-drag (direct pull) technique, beginning with a lump of clay and using her hands to draw the clay upwards and outwards. The pot rests on a round metal plate (kpankpa in Nafaanra) that can be turned on the stump on which it sits and on which the pot can be moved and set aside as it dries. Dorbour, 1994.
A potter seated on the ground starts to form a clay pot. She begins with a lump of clay resting on a metal plate (kpankpa in Nafaanra) which she can turn as she uses a draw-and-drag (direct pull) technique to shape the pot. A second lump of clay has already begun to be formed (lower left) and a clay bowl contains water that she uses to moisten the clay as needed (lower right). Lying on the metal plates to the left are tools that she will use as she forms the pot including two maize cobs, a spatula and a stone. Dorbour, 1994.
Akua Donkor, a Nafana potter, uses a rounded-edged tool to make shallow grooves on the upper body of a soup pot (chiin sinyjͻlͻ in Nafaanra). The clay pot has been allowed to dry to a leather-hard state before the decorations are applied. She has used a maize cob (bledjukaan in Nafaanra) as a roulette (roller) to surface treat the base of the clay pot. A single grooved line sets the maize cob rouletted zone from the smoothed surface above it. The woman wears bracelets that can double as tools for decorating pots. Dorbour, 1994.
A potter sits on a stool as she molds the upper body of a clay water jar (chͻkoo in Nafaanra). In her right hand she uses a maize cob (bledjukaan in Nafaanra), pulling it against the exterior surface to smooth and thin the clay. In the foreground are water jars whose leather-hard upper body and rim have been joined to a rounded base, their clay bases still moist and not yet smoothed. Large wooden mortars and a headpan containing moist clay sit nearby as she works in the shade of an open-sided room. Dorbour, 1994.
Two men (left) stand on the edge of a deep pit previously mined by potters from around Bui Village as a source of potting clay. The deep clay pit was used before the mid-20th century when potters were still practicing their craft east of the Banda hills. The clay pit was located along a stream which drained into the Black Volta on its south bank, on the road leading west from Bui Village. The pit was located in an area later flooded by the rising waters of Bui Lake after construction of the Bui Dam. A red-and-white 2 meter photo scale stands upright in the pit to show the pit's depth. West of Bui, 1989.
At a day-long celebration of the Banda area's rich cultural heritage at the Banda Cultural Centre in Banda-Ahenkro, a group of potters from Dorbour demonstrated their skills for a community audience. Using pre-prepared clay, the potters showed how they form the body and rim of pottery jars, which are then set aside to dry before the pot's base is added. The video showcases some of their finished products and an announcer describes to the audience in Nafaanra some of steps involved in firing and finishing pots. Afterwards, the potters look at examples of archaeological pots in the Banda Cultural Centre and talk with archaeologist Ann Stahl about what is known from archaeological sites about potting in the past. Ahenkro, 28 June, 2019. Length: 00:25:14.
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University of Victoria Libraries
Potting; Women's work
Pottery; Jars; Heritage
Dr. Ann B. Stahl
Mary Yakosua; Yaa Kofua; Yaa Fordjour; Ama Dadia; Yaa Tabla; Mafua; Elikpim Kuto; Esi Koah Arko