Some traders, as well as custodians of culture, have decried the gradual extinction of pottery as an art in Nigeria, especially in Igbo Land, noting that it is gradually becoming a threat to the Igbo cultural heritage. This is even as they have adduced some reasons for some unidentified illnesses among the people.
Pottery is one of the renowned crafts of ancient Nigeria that is still well practiced in most parts of the country today. It was Nigeria’s most fondly used cultural material that caught the attention and interest of the early British archaeologists.
In this special report, Mercy Hill visited markets and shops at the popular Eke Awka Market to find out the level at which clay pots are used in society and its patronage.
In ancient times; even in present day Nigeria, cooking vessels, food bowls, storage pots, drinking cups, urns, flower pots, decorative pots and frying or drying pots were, and are, all made by potters. Many say they are natural storage methods that can protect users against illnesses caused by contamination as witnessed currently.
Speaking to Fides, Mazi Cyril Umeakaife, stated that household vessels that were predominantly used among the people included large and heavy domestic utensils; such as mortar and pestle, for pounding cassava and yam, or big and deep clay pots with large openings for storage and fermentation of cassava to make “fufu” as the locals call it, or storing water for drinking, bathing and washing.
But he regretted that modern day trends had reduced pottery to decoration items, thereby making it lose its original value.
Mr. Umeakaife described pottery objects as sacred and utility items which had numerous functions like neutralizing of dirt in drinking water in a cool temperature, curing of spiritual illnesses as used by native doctors and saving money and documents, among others.
He frowned at the chemicals which modern household equipment contained, noting that they could be detrimental to human health.
While appreciating the unique nature of pottery to the people, Mrs. Nonye Eselu said that pottery in its traditional setting was unique, thus making it original to its owner.
She stated also that no duplicate of it could be made or found elsewhere except by the potter. She explained that the raw materials used in making pottery were clay and water, commonly found throughout the length and breadth of the country, while machines were not used in its production.
Mrs Eselu described Pottery as one of the cheapest arts practiced in Nigeria, noting that it was largely dominated by women.
For their parts, Mr. Ndubisi Okoli and Mr. Chijoke Ebe described Pottery as an act and art of making earthenware containers and that some individuals had resolved to modernize pottery with beautiful designs. Thus potters now draw patterns of leaves, as well as arachnids like scorpions, and also birds, as decoration, to serve multiple purposes.
They solicited for the support of all, especially the Anambra State government, in reviving the Igbo identity of artifacts, which they described as one of the things that depicted the culture of the people.