By Victoria Rovine
University of Florida (formerly University of Iowa)

Trimming the edges. Banamba, Mali, 1988. Photograph by Barbara E. Frank.


In Africa, particularly in rural areas, most of the objects that fill peoples' lives are made locally. The substantial skills required to carve, weave, or sculpt may be a part of basic education, the knowledge all members of society are expected to possess. All women, for example, may be expected to produce pots for cooking and storage. Particularly accomplished potters may gain reputations, making pots for sale to neighbors and at regional markets. This recognition of extraordinary ability might be compared with culinary skills in Western cultures--while we are all expected to possess the skills necessary to feed ourselves, those who are particularly gifted cooks gain reputations and recognition.