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.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial
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.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial
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
A potter uses a maize cob (bledjukaan in Nafaanra) to smooth the surface of clay jar body that she is molding by a draw-and-drag (direct pull) technique. Beginning with a lump of moist clay, she has drawn the clay upward and outward, thinning the walls as she works. Here she moves clockwise around the stump that holds the palette (kpankpa in Nafaanra) on which the jar is being formed as she draws the maize cob up, pulling it towards her body. Bondakile, October, 1982.
A standing potter molds the body of a clay jar using a draw-and-drag (direct pull) technique. Here she uses a flat metal spatula to smooth the now-formed jar's exterior surface. She places the edge of her tool at the neck and makes downward strokes to create a smooth surface on the moist clay. As she works, she moves around the stump that supports the palette (kpankpa in Nafaanra) on which the jar is being formed. Bondakile, October, 1982.
A potter uses a metal spatula as she forms the neck area of clay jar which she has shaped using a draw-and-drag (direct pull) technique. The striations on the body of the jar were created by a maize cob (bledjukaan in Nafaanra) which she used to shape and smooth the pot's wall. These will be smoothed away as she continues to form the pot. She moves around the stump on which the pot rests as she works. Bondakile, October, 1982.
A potter's tools are laid out for view. Sitting on a well-worn clay-smeared grinding stone are two maize cobs (left; bledjukaan in Nafaanra), half of a seed pod from a tree (jenge in Nafaanra), and a spatula (unknown material). An enamel-ware pot holds several water-worn pebbles, several of which also sit in front of the grindstone. Pebbles (gbeliͻ in Nafaanra) are used to burnish the surface or make decorations on the pot's surface. In front of the grinding stone are two iron rings or "bracelets." The one with a wide flat side (gbooroo in Nafaanra) is used to scrape and thin the pot's walls after they have been allowed to dry. The other can be used to decorate pots. A small clay bowl holds water and a piece of cloth used to moisten and smooth the surface of the pot after it is formed. Dorbour, 1994.
Clay cooking pots (sro chͻ in Nafaanra) stacked at the Bondoukou market awaiting sale. Women have brought these pottery jars from potting villages in Banda (e.g., Dorbour) and the surrounding region (e.g. Bondakile). Bondoukou, Côte d’Ivoire, 1994.
Though potters work individually when they make clay pots, they help each other when they fire their pots. In the foreground are the ashes left by earlier fires, and in the background women tend to ongoing bonfires. Stacks of firewood are visible in the background. Adadiem, 1994.
A woman stacks clay grinding bowls on top of wood in preparation for a bonfire firing. The bowls are placed to ensure even exposure to the heat of the bonfire. She will place additional fuel on top of the bowls before lighting the fire. Adadiem, 1994.
In order to transport clay pots by motor vehicle, they must be carefully packed and padded. Here, blackened clay grinding bowls packed in grass have arrived in Techiman market from potting villages in Banda. Techiman, 1994.
In some of the area's potting villages, women make hearths using clay pots rather than stones (gbunu in Nafaanra). Three pots are placed close to one another, with their rims turned down. A clay jar tipped on its side sits to the right and metal pots are stacked to the left. Adadiem, 1994.
A woman inspects a clay jar for sale in the Bondoukou market. Large and small cooking pots (sro chͻ in Nafaanra) and a bowl are displayed for sale. During the 20th century women from Banda potting villages and surrounding areas headloaded their pottery to sell at Bondoukou's weekly market. Bondoukou, Côte d’Ivoire, 1994.
These partially formed clay jars (chͻ in Nafaanra) are drying, resting on the palette (kpankpa in Nafaanra) on which they were formed. Once dried to a leather-hard state, the potter removes them from the plate and, using fresh moist clay, adds a rounded base to the jar. To the left, a metal cooking vessel rests nearby. Bondakile, October, 1982.
The remains of a pottery-firing bonfire after the newly fired pots have been removed. Most of the jars visible here were fired prior to this bonfire. Broken or otherwise flawed, they were used to create a bank around the bonfire at its base. The bonfire's fuel has been reduced to an ash layer that remains in the center. Bondakile, October, 1982.
Women headloading pottery prepare to leave Dorbour to walk to the weekly market in Bondoukou, a distance of more than 30 km. They have secured the clay pots by tying nettting or cloth around them. The women are not necessarily potters. Some women trade in clay pots but do not make them. Dorbour, 1994.
A toddler girl wearing a protective strand of beads sits beside finished clay grinding bowls that have been set aside to continue drying before firing. The scoring on the interior of the bowl provides a rough surface against which cooked vegetables can be ground into a paste before being added to a soup. These bowls may also serve as men's eating bowls (pԑԑ in Nafaanra). Bondakile, October, 1982.
A potter tends the bonfire in which clay pottery jars are being fired. She uses a long pole to adjust the grass fuel laid on top of the pots and the wood fuel beneath them. A bank of previously fired and broken pots holds the fire in place. The bonfire burns rapidly, the firing process lasting between about 30 minutes to an hour. Bondakile, October, 1982.
Peni Krah, a Nafana potter, sits on the ground and uses her left hand to turn the palette (kpankpa in Nafaanra) on which she has molded a clay soup pot (chiin sinyjͻlͻ in Nafaanra), smoothing its rim with a moist cloth held in her right hand. The headpan to her right contains moist clay. Dorbour, 1994.
Side view of a broken pottery sherd with a large slag inclusion. The use of crushed slag as a tempering material included in potting clay is first seen in pottery associated with Ngre phase sites in the Banda area. The use of crushed slag as a temper intensifies during Kuulo phase times, after which it becomes uncommon. Ngre Kataa, June, 2008.
As the bonfire burns down, a helper uses a long pole to prepare the newly fired clay pots for removal. The neatly stacked pots lie on their sides. Around the edges, a bank of previously fired and broken pots, some turned upside-down, were used to hold the fuel and pots in place as the bonfire was built. The bonfire burns rapidly, the firing process lasting between about 30 minutes to an hour. Bondakile, October, 1982.
Sheep feed on the edges of a bonfire where clay jars are being fired. Grass has been laid as fuel over the carefully stacked pottery. Wood fuel lies beneath. At the bonfire's base, the broken pots used to bank the fire are visible. The fire will be allowed to burn down, after which the jars will be removed and, while still hot, dipped in a bark solution that coats the pot with a finish. Bondakile, October, 1982.
Potters place the pounded bark of specific trees (surom, layene, koko or lakroas they are known in Nafaanra) in water to create a solution used to finish pots. The red-colored solution carbonizes on the surface of hot pots just removed from the bonfire. Here, the prepared solution awaits as the pots are being fired. A plastic container floats on the surface. Bondakile, October, 1982.
Clay pottery jars cool and dry after having been fired and dipped in a finishing bark solution. Once fully cooled, the jars will be stacked and stored before being sent to markets around the area. Jars like these (sro chͻ in Nafaanra) are used to prepare food, for example boiling yams and other tubers. To the right rear, wood is stored on a raised platform, awaiting use in cooking hearths. Bondakile, October, 1982.
A potter uses a pole to carry a hot clay jar from the smoldering bonfire (behind). She is carrying it to a pottery bowl that contains a solution of pounded bark into which she will dip the jar to create a finish. Newly fired pots are visible in the remains of the bonfire, lying on their sides. A row of upturned, previously fired but broken pots forms a bank around the bonfire's edge. Bondakile, October, 1982.
A seated Nafana potter uses her hands to mold the sides of a clay pot. Beginning with a lump of clay placed on a round palette (kpankpa in Nafaanra), she has used a draw-and-drag (direct pull) technique to form the pot. Nearby are the enamel ware plates that she uses as palettes or turntables on which to form pots. Another partially shaped pot is visible at the top of the photo. Dorbour, 1994.
This short video made from still photographic images shows how Mo potters in Bondakile make clay jars using a draw-and-drag technique. The focus is on forming of the jar's body and rim. Original images used to make the video are available in the Banda Through Time Repository. Bondakile, 1982. Length: 2.59 minutes.
A standing potter bends over as she begins to pull a clay lump upwards and outwards, using a draw-and-drag (direct pull) technique to form the walls of a clay pot. The clay rests on a metal plate (kpankpa in Nafaanra) which allows her to move the pot aside to dry once its body and rim are formed. Once dry, she will add a rounded base. The finger marks visible at this stage of the pot's forming show the direction in which she pulls the clay as she works. Adadiem, 1994.
Potters in Adadiem place bark over clay pots that have been stacked on top of a bed of firewood. The bonfire has been lit and the bark serves as additional fuel. More red-slipped clay pots sit behind, waiting for the next firing. One woman carries a child on her back. The bonfire will burn for between 30 minutes and an hour, after which the pots will be ready for use or sale. Abena Donkor (far right) assists while Solomon Kojo, young boy in brown shorts, looks on. Two photos. Adadiem, 1994.
Unfinished clay grinding bowls dry on the palettes (kpankpa in Nafaanra) on which they were formed. After they have dried to a leather-hard state, the potter will remove them from their palettes and score their interiors. The scoring creates a grinding surface used to process vegetables which are added to soups. These bowls may also serve as men's eating bowls (pԑԑ in Nafaanra). Immediately behind the drying bowls is a hearth, swept clean of ashes. Pottery jars can be seen drying in background, right. A chicken forages nearby. Bondakile, October, 1982.
Ama Donkor, a Nafana potter, sits as she uses moist clay to form the base of a soup pot (chiin sinyjͻlͻ in Nafaanra). She is adding the base to a body and rim that she made the day before and set aside to dry. The clay pot rests on a metal plate that she can turn as she works (kpankpa in Nafaanra). She adds small lumps of clay as she gradually builds the rounded base of the pot. Three photos. Dorbour, 1994.