Bamana Women’s Pottery

by Barbara Frank
SUNY at Stony Brook

Forming a pot over a mold. Banamba, Mali, 1988. Photograph by Barbara E. Frank.


The technology of pottery production is one of the most conservative of crafts practiced in West Africa. The initial stages of the forming process are among the most distinctive. Bamana potters begin a vessel by carefully pounding a large pancake of clay over an old upturned pot. Assa Coulibaly watches as her granddaughter trims the edges from the base of a vessel. Young girls often assist their mothers and other women of the household with making pottery, learning the rudimentary skills. They are not encouraged to produce on their own until after their marriage when they have joined their husband's family.