Esther rubbing white stone on a freshly painted wall
In October, 2010, I had the opportunity to visit Ghana, West Africa. My friend Annalisa Jensen introduced me to potters she knew while working there 8 years ago. We visited Sirigu, a village in the northern region close to the Burkina Faso border, and stayed with our friend Esther and her family. I learned all the steps of the pottery process, as well as wall painting techniques. The architecture is beautiful, with houses made from sandy soil and painted with red, black, and white pigments. In contemporary pottery practices the techniques are passed from mother to daughter. For more information about this region see http://www.swopa.org.
VILLAGE IN SOUTHERN REGION
Comfort scraping the exterior of a medicine pot
Later we stayed in a village in the southern region, where it is very green and humid. I was able to watch and learn techniques for making medicine pots and water pots. I stayed with Comfort Mensah and her family, in their house made from the same clay that is used for the pots. Everything is coil-built, using tools such as leaves for smoothing, palm branches for scraping, large seed pods from trees for bellying out, and stones for burnishing. The pots are contemporary domestic items seen in many homes and kitchens, and are sold at the local markets.
UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Robert explaining where clay slurry comes out
The University of Science and Technology is in the city of Kumasi, and has an extensive art department and a strong ceramics program. Robert Amoanyi, a ceramics professor, generously showed me around for the day and explained all the ways that they process local materials, grind glass for glazes, and teach hand building and wheel throwing. We discussed some of the benefits and the limitations of working with these materials.