THE VISUAL ARTS OF GBAGYI: A STUDY OF FORM, FUNCTION AND AUTHORSHIP.

POTTERY: The Ushaffa pottery centre in Bwari Area council was established in 1990 by formal first lady of the federal Republic of Nigeria, Mrs. Miraim Badamasi Babangida. Ushaffa pottery centre was a pet project of the then first lady under Better life for rural women. Looking at the pottery tradition within the Federal capital territory and abundance of raw materials which made the then Northern Nigerian Government to set up a training school where local potters from the region could be trained in the tecniques of modern technology by a British potter Mr. Michael Cardew . Prominent among the first recruited trainees in the centre was a woman Hadjia Ladi Kwali who became famous and brought immeasurable glory to the centre and the entire nation at large.

Today, Ushaffa pottery centre is a tourist destination in the Federal capital territory. This centre had made marks in the annals of history with former President of United State of America Bill Clinton and a large retinue of world leaders visited the centre on 23rd August, 2000.
There are basically two distinct categories of Ushaffa pottery:
• The traditional hand built Gbagyi pottery
• The ceramic sculpture which replicates the Gbagyi mythology.
Methods: Across sub-Saharan Africa, there are three main traditional methods of constructing pottery vessels, excluding the potters wheel, a recent innovation which sees extremely limited use except at universities and few specially organized government projects.
The technique used by the Gbagyi people includes the following;
1) Coil technique,
2) Pinch technique
3) Mould technique
4) Throwing technique
5) Dindinge technique
Coil technique: in which the walls of the vessel are formed by creating a circular base upon which is placed coil after coil of clay. Each coil is smoothened by hand into the wall below it before the next is added. Thus the pot grows in height layer by layer.
Pinch technique: in which, starting with a lump of clay, the potter pulls the wall outwards and upwards, constantly pinching to shape and thin them.
Prior to Usaffa pottery centers, the traditional Gbagyi techniques is dindinge, which the Gbagyi and Hausa alone in Nigeria seems to have perfected, using it to completely form the pot except the neck, mouth and decorations.
In essence, the dindinge technique is thus the potter, seated on the ground places a lump of clay in a smooth, shallow depression before him (see plate D,1), and by heavy blows with the mallet begins to form a depression, which shapes the lump into a very thick bowl-like shape (see plate D, 2) using his feet to turn the lump of clay constantly and his left hand to guild it, the potter continues to pound, forming the pot progressively into a more hollow hemispherical shape, while the walls become both taller and thinner (see plate D,3).
When the pot has reached about half the desired height a smaller mallet with a flatter head is used to finish the rest of the walls. The greatest skill is required when a small-necked nears its final shape; by this time only a small opening remains through which the mallet must be wielded, while the walls are at their minimum thickness. Also during this stage the potter will often use a wooden paddle (matattaki) while he supports the inside of the pot with his other hand. As soon as the body of the pot is formed, the` decoration is applied. Then the pot is set aside to harden.
When leather-hard, the potter serapes and evens the rim of the pot with a knife (wuka). He will then add a large coil of clay to complete the neck (see plate D4). Clay for the neck continuing cracking.
FIRING:
Firing itself is done in fairly large quantities, sometimes hundreds of pots. No kiln is used, wood and grass is laid out on the ground, two layers of pots are stacked on top of this (see plate D5) and finally the whole covered with a heavy layer of grass and ash. This covering dampens the fire, keeping it at a slow smolder for many hours. Temperatures attain 750 OC -800OC and the fire is usually lit in the evening to burn over night avoiding strong winds, which would fan the flames and cause to fast a firing. Should something go wrong in a large firing (for example, a heavy rain) the financial loss is substantial, since several hundred naira’s worth of pots would be lost. Next morning, the pots are allowed to cool somewhat under the grass ashes before unpacking (see plate D6).
TYPES OF POTTERY IN GBAGYI REGION:
The pots produced by the Gbagyi people includes as follows;
a) Giri Pots: Giri pots are one of the famous of the Gbagyi pottery. This is a slim necked pot usually with double handle running from the brim to the upper part of the body (also in other shapes). It is used for storage of grains, flower vases, decoration purposes.
b) Bridal pot: this pot is in set. It is usually given to a new bride by her family immediately after her marriage.
c) Piggy banks: The traditional Gbagyi potters produce a saving bank in the shape of a pig with clay (also in other shapes). This piggy bank is giving to newly wedded couple by the elders in order to remind them to save for the task ahead.
d) Ceremonial pots: Gbagyi people attach social value in their pots during ritual ceremonies and festival. They also have Tulu, Kasko, Randa pots. The most widely used design Motif in Gbagyi traditional pottery is band of small impressions going round the pot, achieved by use of a roulette this designs includes both geometric and zoomorphic shapes.

Gbagyi People, Arts and Culture

Post Author: Hassan Usman

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