A spindle (gԑndԑ in Nafaanra) and a spindle whorl (gԑndԑ kaan in Nafaanra) used to make cotton thread. A black camera lens cap shows scale. For much of the 20th century, spinning was a routine activity for women. Some of the spun cotton thread was dyed blue. The blue thread was woven together with white thread to make durable strip-woven cloths that were highly valued. The rounded spindle whorl is made from fired clay and painted with white and red designs. The spindle whorl's decoration inspired the Nafaanra proverb: "Chlͻ were nyu na gԑndԑ yi" (The woman is as beautiful as the spindle whorl." Archaeologists have found spindle whorls on Banda-area archaeological sites dating to the late 18th and early 19th century. Before that time it seems that spinning cotton was not a routine household activity and that cloth was made in market centers. The spindle whorl is laying on a courtyard floor, with an eroding plaster layer visible in the background. Gbao, September, 1982.
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 standing potter molds the body of a clay jar using a draw-and-drag (direct pull) technique. As she began she drew the moist clay upward and outward from the lump with which she started. Here she shapes the jar's neck and outward flaring rim. Before doing so, she has smoothed away finger marks created as she formed the jar's body. As she works, she moves around the stump that supports the palette on which the jar is being formed. Bondakile, October, 1982.
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.
A standing potter puts the finishing touches on the rim of a clay jar that she has molded using a draw-and-drag (direct pull) technique. She has finished the body, neck and rim of the jar and will now set it aside to dry. After it has dried to a leather-hard state, she will remove the jar from the palette (kpankpa in Nafaanra) on which it has been formed and she will add a rounded base. Bondakile, October, 1982.
A potter uses a draw-and-drag (direct pull) technique as she begins to mold the body and rim of a pottery jar from a lump of moist clay. The clay rests on a palette (kpankpa in Nafaanra) supported by a stump. She moves clockwise around the stump as she uses her hands to pull the clay upward and outward to form the walls of the pot. Bondakile, October, 1982.
With moistened hands, a standing potter smooths the rim of a partially finished clay jar. As she works, she moves clockwise around the wooden stump that supports the palette (kpankpa in Nafaanra) on which the pot is being molded. Bondakile, October, 1982.
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.
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.