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.
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.
Ten clay cooking pots (sro chͻ in Nafaanra) have been placed upside down on a bed of firewood in preparation for a bonfire that will fire the clay pots. These pots have been red-slipped (chuma in Nafaanra) before firing. In the background is the bark that will be used to cover and surround the pottery before the bonfire is lit. Once lit, the fire burns for beween 30 minutes and an hour, after which the clay jars will be useable and ready for sale. Dorbour, 1994.
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.
Small clay eating bowls like this one (kpokpoo in Nafaanra) were typically used by women. This one has been blackened after a fashion that became popular in the 20th century. Similar bowls are found on archaeological sites around the Banda area, though often with a flat, pedestaled base and seldom blackened. Dorbour, 1994.
A number of large and medium-sized clay jars have been placed upside down on a bed of fire wood in preparation for a bonfire firing. Several previously fired and broken clay pots together with large stones are used to bank the edges of the stacked firewood. More firewood is stacked behind the bonfire area. Adadiem, 1994.
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.
These fired clay pots are specifically designed for water storage. The water jar (chͻkoo in Nafaanra) on the left was made in Adadiem and the one on the right was made by a potter in Dorbour. Unlike pottery intended for other uses, potters do not finish pots intended for water storage in a bark solution to seal and color the pot. Instead, the surface of water storage pots needs to be porous to effectively cool the water stored inside. The size of the water jar's mouth allows access to the water inside but also limits evaporation. The color of these pots is a result of firing conditions. 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 slip is a thin solution made by mixing a red soil found on the Brawhani road with water. Some is contained in a small can sitting on the ground (left). Finished, unfired pots sit in the room behind the potter. 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.
Spindle whorls (gԑndԑ kaan in Nafaanra) are made by Muslim men in Kokua, a village on the Sampa-Asri road. Here a man decorates fired clay whorls, applying bands of colors (white, red, yellow) to their dark surface. He applies the color using a stylus, twisting the whorl to create horizontal bands around the whorl's circumference. In the foreground a finished spindle whorl sits on top of unpainted whorls in a metal pot. A bundle of thin wooden spindles sits at the man's foot, next to a calabash that holds white pigment. Yellow pigment is held by another container, possibly a turtle shell (carapace). Next to it, a red pigment stone (ochre) rests on a heavily worn grinding stone. The beauty of such a painted spindle whorl inspired the Nafaanra proverb "Chlͻ were nyu na gԑndԑ yi" (The woman is as beautiful as the spindle whorl.") Archaeological examples of whorls found on late 18th- and 19th-century sites in the Banda area are often shaped like these from Kokua, but few show signs of paint, perhaps because it has worn off during use. Kokua, 1994.
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.
Adwoa Miwo (right) learns to make clay pots from her experienced potter mother, Peni Ngunu Chͻ (center), as they work together in the interior courtyard of their house. Mosi Nyuu (husband and father) looks on. Partially finished clay jars sit nearby, resting on the palettes (kapankpa in Nafaanra) on which they have been formed. The more experienced mother is making a larger jar than her apprentice daughter. Also placed around the house's interior courtyard are two dark-colored clay soup pots (chiin sinyjͻlͻ in Nafaanra) and a wooden mortar (right). Thatch- and metal-roofed rooms surround the courtyard. 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.
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.
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.
Yaa Tenabrԑ, a Nafana potter, sits on a wooden stool as she scapes the interior of a large clay pot. A metal bucket containing moist clay covered in plastic sits nearby. A well-worn grinding stone is visible at the top of the photo, on top of which rests a pink plastic cup. A small clay bowl filled with water sits next to it. The blue headpan to the right can no longer be used to carry things, but it remains useful as a support or stand for other things like round-based water storage pots. Dorbour, 1994.
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Forming; Women's work; Potting; Plastic containers; Dorbour; Headpans; Metal buckets; Grinding stone
Adwoa Fodjoa, a Nafana potter, sits on a wooden stool as she thins the inside walls of a clay water pot (chͻkoo in Nafaanra). The pot has been formed and set aside to dry before the potter thins its walls. The round-based pot rests on a cloth as she works. Other water pots on which she is working sit near her, turned upside down. A metal plate that she uses as a palette (kpankpa in Nafaanra) on which to form pots sits by her foot. The clay jar in front of the pot on which she is working contains the water she uses to moisten the pot as needed. A tray with lumps of clay and two enamel ware pots sit nearby. Dorbour, 1994.
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Forming; Women's work; Potting; Dorbour; Water pots (chokoo)
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.
Afua Donkor, a Nafana potter, inspects clay jars of various shapes and sizes that await firing. The liquid red slip (chuma in Nafaanra) has been applied, allowed to dry and then burnished in prepartion for firing. Visible around the courtyard are wooden mortars, a pestle and a metal cooking pot. Thatch-roofed rooms surround the courtyard. Dorbour, 1994.
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.
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.
A woman in Bondakile spins cotton thread from raw fiber held in her left hand. She holds the raw cotton between her thumb and index finger, using her middle finger to provide tension as she stretches and thins the fibers using her right hand. The thread is wound thickly toward the base of the spindle (gԑndԑ in Nafaanra) above the spindle whorl (gԑndԑ kan in Nafaanra) which is barely visible at the base of the spindle. The woman uses (what appears to be) a turtle shell (carapace) as a surface on which to spin. She has stabilized the shell with a piece of folded cloth which sits on top of an enamel ware plate. A calabash and a plastic bucket site nearby. Spinning was a routine household activity done by women until commercially manufactured cloth became commonplace (second half of the 20th century). Two photos. Bondakile, 1994.
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Plastic containers; Women's work ; Cotton thread; Techniques
Yaa Tenabrԑ, a Nafana potter, stands 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) supported by a wooden stump. She moves clockwise around the stump, using her left hand to draw clay up from the center of the lump and her right hand to shape and thin what will become the walls of the pot. As she pulls and smooths the clay, she forms the upper body and rim of the pot. The finger marks visible at this stage of the pot's forming show the direction in which she pulls the clay as she works. These marks will be smoothed away as she continues to form the pot. She uses a maize cob (bedjukaan in Nafaanra) as a tool to shape and smooth the pot's walls. She uses a spatula-like tool to thin and further smooth the surface. When she is finished forming the body and rim, she will set the clay jar aside to dry on the wooden pallet on which it rests. Once dry, she will add a rounded base to the pot. Five photos. Dorbour, 1994.
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.
A man in Sabiye weaves a fiber mat (dԑnglԑ in Nafaanra) using 'gbannaa'. The mat is rolled and he works on its outer edge. Mats like these were pliable and used in a variety of ways. People slept on them within their houses. When people died, they might be wrapped in one of these valuable mats before being buried. Two photos. Sabiye, 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.
A woman in Dumboli spins cotton thread. She holds raw cotton fiber in her left hand. She has attached a strand of fiber to her spindle (gԑndԑ in Nafaanra), and she prepares to set it and the spindle whorl (gԑndԑ kaan in Nafaanra) which weights it in motion with her right hand. The whorl spins inside a small white vessel (possibly an animal skull or turtle shell) resting on a basket lid. The woman sits on a low stool. Various containers used in food preparation sit behind her. The basket on which she is spinning is used to store her equipment when not in use. Seeing women spinning in their homes would have been common before the second half of the 20th century. Archaeologists find spindle whorls in houses on sites dating to the later 18th and 19th centuries. In earlier times, however, it appears that thread was primarily made in market centers rather than in households. Two photos. Dumboli, 1994.