There are many different types of artisans in the world, but not every artist specializes in pottery. The women of Edioungou in Senegal, Africa are famous for their ceramic skills, which they’ve used to develop beautiful and unique pieces of art that are admired all over the world.
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About the Potters of Edioungou in Senegal
The potters of Edioungou, Senegal aka: les potières d’Edioungou, are some of the most famous in all of Africa. These traditional West African potters use clay from the Casamance region to create their beautiful and unique African crafts. Watching one of these skilled potters at work is an experience you won’t soon forget!
However, it takes years of practice and patience to develop this skill set. The talent for making pots has been passed down through generations as a legacy for mothers to teach their daughters so that they may carry on this tradition for many more years to come.
When you purchase a hand-made ceramic piece made by one of these talented women, know that you’re not only supporting this important craft but also helping preserve traditions while aiding in empowering women.
How They Make the Pottery
In this video, you’ll see one of the famous woman potters of Edioungou Senegal show off her skills. You’ll learn how she forms the clay into pots, how she decorates them, and how she fires them. This is a great video for anyone interested in learning more about pottery or Senegalese culture.
It’s also good if you just want to be impressed by someone doing something they’re really good at.
Traditonal Hand-Building Pottery Method
This potter uses the classic pinch-and-coil method. It’s one of thise things that’s easy to learn but difficult to master.
The first step is to gather a small lump of pliable clay. Next, she rolls the coils and starts pinching them into the form she’s creating. Her patience and attention to consistency is impressive.
After the pot is shaped, she smooths both the interior and exterior surfaces and then adds the decorative touches.
Then it dries for a few days/weeks until most of the moisture is gone and it’s ready to fire.
Firing and Coloring the Pottery
You’ll have to watch the video to see the incredible way she fires the pot.
After the pot is fired, it is cooled and then covered in tinted slip, which is a liquid form of the clay.
The final stage is to place it in the sun which will darken the slip layer. This last step gives the pot its final color finish. It only takes a few hours in the hot Senegalese sun for the slip to dry and the piece to be complete.
The Finished Product
The woman potter of Edioungou Senegal is amazing! She has such skill and talent. I was so impressed by her work. I’ve done my share of ceramics and it was a pleasure to visit her home and watch her work at her craft.
If you’re in the Casamance (southern) region of Senegal be sure to make time to stop in Edioungou and see what the potters are up to. The tour and demonstration are well worth your time.
The cup you see her putting in the sun at the end of the video is one of the ones we ended up buying, but actually getting it became an adventure worthy of Jason Bourne.
The day we visited we were on our way deeper into the Casamance region. We didn’t know the cups we were going to want were going to be the ones that weren’t quite finished.
No problem, we’ll pick them up after out tour of the area.
Well…our tour deeper into Casamance turned bad quickly and we were headed back to Ziguinchor far earlier than we expected. But that meant we were going to bypass Edioungou and it was going to be difficult to get back to get our cups.
Well, between helpful locals, phone calls from driver to mystery helper, to who knows whom, and discussions with other vehicles while driving, we found our van pulling over to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
Turns out that a guy from the village was waiting for us on the side of the road and he had our cups. Wrapped simply in brown paper, he handed them off through the side door of the van and just as quickly disappeared.
No need to backtrack or arrange a special messenger. They had pulled off some awesome local trick to make the delivery happen. Something we very much appreciated.
Potters of Edioungou FAQ
If you’re in Ziguinchor it’s an easy hour’s drive by taxi or minibus, depending on your budget. From anywhere else in Casamance it’ll just take a little longer. If you’re near any of the major tourist spots you’re probably within 1-2 hours drive of the Women’s Pottery Center of Edioungou.
If you take a minibus, or sept-place, they’ll drop you at the junction and you’ll either have to hike in or get a local taxi.
If you’re staying nearby it’ll be nice if a local can give warning ahead to make sure someone is available to show you around. However, I don’t think most of the villagers have cell phones so they’re probably used to people just showing up and accommodating them as they arrive.
The dry season for the Casamance in Senegal would be best, from November to May. However the shoulder of the wet season is probably fine, too. In the deepest part of the rainy season (August/September) the dirt road out to the village might get pretty difficult. If in doubt as to the road’s viability, ask your guide or at your hotel.
Yes, but it takes time. Once formed, the clay needs time to dry before it’s fired. If you want something custom from the potters of Edioungou make this an early stop on your tour of the Casamance region and plan to swing back through to pick up your finished piece.
Tribal Joy by Alexander Nakarada | https://www.serpentsoundstudios.com
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