Griot Potters of the Folona: The History of an African Ceramic Tradition (African Expressive Cultures) (Paperback)
Griot Potters of the Folona reconstructs the past of a particular group of West African women potters using evidence found in their artistry and techniques.
The potters of the Folona region of southeastern Mali serve a diverse clientele and firing thousands of pots weekly during the height of the dry season. Although they identify themselves as Mande, the unique styles and types of objects the Folona women make, and more importantly, the way they form and fire them, are fundamentally different from Mande potters to the north and west.
Through a brilliant comparative analysis of pottery production methods across the region, especially how the pots are formed and the way the techniques are taught by mothers to daughters, Barbara Frank concludes that the mothers of the potters of the Folona very likely came from the south and east, marrying Mande griots (West African leatherworkers who are better known as storytellers or musicians), as they made their way south in search of clientele as early as the 14th or 15th century CE. While the women may have nominally given up their mothers' identities through marriage, over the generations the potters preserved their maternal heritage through their technological style, passing this knowledge on to their daughters, and thus transforming the very nature of what it means to be a Mande griot. This is a story of resilience and the continuity of cultural heritage in the hands of women.