This paper discusses the decline of traditional pottery making in rural southwestern Ethiopia and its causes and looks at the potters’ responses to socio-economic and cultural shocks that have been instigated by the decline. Pottery making in southwestern Ethiopia forms a distinct female-only occupational identity, and potters are socially marginalized and forced into endogamous social groups. Recent government land policies have limited their already meager access to clay resources, while imported plastic and enamel objects offer comparative advantages over locally made ceramics. However, potters have not passively accepted the shocks brought about by the land policy and the influx of imported objects. Instead, they have devised strategies to obtain clay and have included imported foreign objects into their technology, despite the fact that these new objects are not part of their technological traditions.
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I am very grateful to the Wallaga rural potters among whom this study was conducted. I wanted to thank Abdi Assefa for helping me prepare a map of the study area and for help in data gathering. I am also grateful to Abebe Dinega, Dejene Dandena, and Ayana Getahun for assisting me during the fieldwork as well as the anonymous reviewer for constructive comments. Special thanks also go to the Authority for Research and Conservation of the Cultural Heritage, the Oromia Culture and Tourism Office, the West Wollega Zone Culture and Tourism Bureau, and the Nole Kaba Administration for facilitating the fieldwork. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The fieldwork for this project was funded by the National Geographic Society/Committee for Research and Exploration under Grant 9846-16.
© The Author(s) 2020.
- pottery making
- rural women
- social practices