The Makings of a Pot
In the village of Kalabougou near Segou, Mali, women of the numu blacksmiths population have worked for centuries as traditional potters. A 7-day fabrication cycle leads to the weekly Saturday afternoon firing of the kilns, in which large stacks of pots are covered with grass and set on fire.
A woman mixes small pieces of fired clay (grog) with clay body by stamping on it. Mixing grog with the clay body will help the pot withstand the firing and repeated thermal stress of cooking.
A woman skillfully throws the clay between her hands as she works to mold a tall, thin pot half her size.
Molded clay pots stand ready for firing.
Next to the kilns, a woman separates the red bark of a certain tree from the water it has been soaked in. The red-dyed water will be used as a decorative glaze for the pots yet to be fired. The glaze is most often applied to the neck of the pot.
Completed pottery is stacked in an open warehouse, ready for transport to market.