Bamana Women’s Pottery

by Barbara Frank
SUNY at Stony Brook

Blackening the pots. Kunògò, Mali, 1988. Photograph by Barbara E. Frank.


The fire burns hot and fast. Within half an hour, the women take up long wooden poles fitted with an iron hook on the end. This tool is known as woloso, because it is similar to the sickle by the same name used by farmers. The women approach the fire ducking low to avoid the most intense heat and pluck the smaller vessels red hot from the stack. These are immediately plunged into a special solution of tree bark or acacia seed pods and water. As the water boils around them, the pots emerge a rich, intense black. This treatment is reserved primarily for cooking pots.