Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ihumwa Village Potters

Ihumwa village potters

 During my 2010  travels as a U.S. State Department delegate for the Women's Arts Exchange with Tanzania(led by Martin Nagy, Director of the Great Lakes Arts Council in Toledo), I had the experience of my life when taken to to meet "some of the best potters in Tanzania." My time with the Ihumwa village potters outside of Dodoma, Tanzania turned out to be my National Geographic moment! I remember sitting on a small stool outside of a traditional mud home with all the women's incredible pottery laid out before us. Two cows were tied up in a pen directly behind me, all the children stood encircling us and through our translator the following incredible story began to unfold.
What an awesome welcome by the women

With my first look at the fruit of these incredible potters I was immediately struck by the perfect symmetry. Initially, our delegation leader thought that a potters wheel must have been used. But after a barrage of questions one of the women indicated that she would demonstrate their pot making process for us. To my amazement in less than fifteen minutes a perfect pot had been formed before our very eyes... what an incredible sight this was!
The demonstration begins
Adding water to dried clay
Tools...corn cob, paper and stone
Building wall of pot
Using corn cob tool
Almost complete...
One of the things I learned was that each woman walks eight miles in order to collect the clay from a nearby riverbed. Then each woman would wrap about fifty pounds of clay in their khanga cloth(a popular textile worn by many women in Tanzania as skirts, head wraps and even to carry their babies in) which was then wrapped around their necks so that the weight was evenly distributed across their shoulders. Next the clay would be left to dry completely, sifted of rocks and other impurities and eventually reconstituted with water for pottery building. The pots are fired on top of the ground which accounts for the beautifully blackened patches that dot the surfaces. of the finished pieces.

Finishing the lid

Completed pottery of the village women

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