Iron slag is formed as a byproduct of iron smelting. Here a large slag nodule has broken in half, revealing its interior texture. At the archaeological site of Ngre Kataa, large chunks of 'bubbly' slag like this were occasionally found in household and other contexts, away from areas otherwise associated with metal-working activities. Potters at the time of the site's occupation had begun to use crushed iron slag as a tempering agent in their potting clays, which may explain why large nodules were being carried and cached in areas away from metal-working locations. Ngre Kataa, June, 2008.
During the 20th century women from the potting villages of Dorbour, Adadiem and other locations west of the Banda hills sold their pots in markets centers to the east and the west. Here women sell clay pots in the market at Bondoukou in Côte d’Ivoire. Visible are varied-sized cooking pots (sro chͻ in Nafaanra), water jars (chͻkoo in Nafaanra), soup pots (chiin sinyjͻlͻ in Nafaanra) and grinding bowls (pԑԑ in Nafaanra). Also for sale in the foreground are clay eating bowls that appear to have been fired in a kiln (?) rather than a bonfire. Bondoukou, 1994.
Fired, blackened clay grinding bowls are stacked (center). While hot from the fire, the bowls have been blackened by rolling them in dry grass or peanut (boŋgrɛ in Nafaanra) shells. To the right, a bonfire firing is in progress. The outside perimeter of the fire is banked with previously fired but broken jars. To the left, a large clay bowl contains a bark solution into which the pots are dipped while still hot from the fire. Behind that, another bonfire burns. To the right (back, center) pots have been stacked in preparation for another bonfire firing. The fashion of blackening grinding bowls began in the Banda area sometime during the 20th century. Adadiem, 1994.
Potters and their helpers place hot clay jars, just removed from the bonfire, into a solution made from pounded tree bark. They use their long wooden poles to carry the pots to large pottery bowls containing the bark solution. They dip and turn the pot in the solution, allowing it to carbonize on the surface of the hot jar. This finishing step colors the jar's surface and makes its walls less porous which is said to improve its cooking performance. The remains of the bonfire, banked by previously fired broken pots, can be seen in the rear center. Four photos. Bondakile, October, 1982.
Afua Donkor, a Nafana potter, selects and places fuel as she prepares to fire clay soup pots (chiin sinyjͻlͻ in Nafaanra) that have been slipped red. Other clay pots sit nearby awaiting firing, some in a headpan. The pots are carefully stacked on top of the wood and additional fuel placed on top. Additional firewood is stacked behind and in front lays the bark that she will use to cover the clay pots before lighting the bonefire. Once lit, the bonfire will burn for between 30 and 60 minutes, after which the fired pottery will be hardened, useable and ready for sale. Two photos. Dorbour, 1994.
A group of four clay jars cool after being removed from the bonfire and dipped in bark solution. The solution carbonizes as it comes in contact with the hot surface of the pot, creating a glossy darkened surface that reduces the jar's porosity. A portion of one jar's rim has broken off during the firing and finishing process. Visible on the lower pot surfaces is the maize cob (bledjukaan in Nafaanra) roulette applied to create a roughened surface prior to firing. Shallow grooves used to decorate the upper surfaces are visible on the jar in the foreground. Pieces of bark from the bark solution adhere to the jars' surfaces. Bondakile, October, 1982.
Afua Donkor, a Nafana potter, uses a pestle to pound bark that will be used to make a solution to finish clay pots. In a nearby headpan, more stripped bark awaits pounding. After pounding, the bark will be soaked in water. Hot clay pots just removed from the bonfire will be dipped and turned in the solution. This colors the pots and is said to reduce their porosity. She sits on a stool as she works in the courtyard near a hearth. Nearby is a large metal cooking pot, several wooden mortars and a number of pestles. Finished clay soup cooking pots (chiin sinyjͻlͻ in Nafaanra) sit behind her ready for sale. Dorbour, 1994.
Clay pots that have been fired and finished by dipping in a bark solution cool as a group looks on. To the right, a woman is dipping a clay pot just removed from the fire in a bark solution contained within a large metal cooking pot. She uses a long pole to turn the pot. The bark solution carbonizes as it comes in contact with the hot clay surface, creating a darkened sheen, as on the pots to the left. From left, Vida, Enoch Mensah (research assistant, blue shirt) and Obimpeh. Center and right, Yaa Sunyani (blue head scarf) Akua Kpͻͻ and Yaa Kpͻͻ (pink top). In the background (right) a fenced kitchen garden is visible. Adadiem, 1994.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial
University of Victoria Libraries
Potting; Metal pots; Finishing; Soup pots (sro cho); Headpan
This short video made from still photographic images illustrates the firing techniques of Banda-area potters. It shows examples of bonfire firing and post-firing treatment of vessels in a solution of pounded bark. Images include a 1982 sequence following Mo potters in Bondakile and 1994 images of Nafana potters in Adadiem and Dorbour, featuring Afua Donkor and Yaa Nsiah Adiemu from the latter. Original images used to make the video are available in the Banda Through Time Repository. Bondakile, 1982. Adadiem, Dorbour, 1994. Length: 4.22 minutes.
A potter has completed the draw-and-drag (direct pull) molding of a clay jar body and rim. The surface of the jar has been moistened and smoothed. It will be set aside to dry. Once it has dried to a leather-hard state, she will remove the partially finished jar from the palette (kpankpa in Nafaanra) on which she formed it and will add a rounded base using fresh, moist clay. Bondakile, October, 1982.