Dada Pottery: Where women potters hold sway
Success Nwogu, who was at the Dada Pottery located in Ilorin, Kwara State, writes about its art, practice and essence
While many Nigerians earnestly wish for an improvement in electricity generation and supply not only for industrial purposes and jobs creation, but for the functional use of their refrigerators to cool their drinks, and preserve their food; pots made at the Dada Pottery have long met these needs.
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that the pots churned out by potters at Dada Pottery have the capacity to keep liquid and solid food cool for a long time.
Dada Pottery is located at the Dada area of Ilorin, the Kwara State capital. The pottery occupies about an acre of land and it is the largest concentration of potters in the state. It is also reputed to be the source of pottery in the town.
The Dada area is located at Okelele, Ilorin East Local Government of Kwara State. It is on the left side of the Sobi Specialist Hospital Road, Alagbado, Ilorin while going from Muritala Mohammed Road to Sobi Specialist Hospital; Sobi Hills, and the 22 Armoured Brigade, Nigerian Army, Sobi Barracks.
Dada Pottery derives its name from the community: Dada in Ilorin. The potters who are said to be over a hundred women organised themselves in a group and chose a leader for themselves. To show their loyalty to their leadership, some of the potters approached by our correspondent initially declined making any comment. They directed all comments and responses to their leader, Mrs. Raliat Saka.
Though the surroundings of the pottery are not captivating as one may hope, this may be excused. It is located in a low income area. A fascinating scenery, however, awaits a patient visitor who tours the manufacturing and storage sections of the pottery. Huge heaps of clay, different types, sizes and colours of finished pots and those still smouldering on fire were massed all over the local industrial estate creating a beautiful scenario.
Some of the potters who refused to disclose their names in deference to their leader, said they have been able to use proceeds from their activities in the pottery industry for the upkeep of their children, sending them to schools up to the higher institution level. Some of them also said they had built houses while others had bought vehicles from the trade. Many of them also said they had diversified into other business with the money they made from pottery.
According to these potters, people from Abuja, Ijebu Ode in Ogun State, Lagos and Kaduna states and other towns in South-West Nigeria come to buy their pots whose prices range from N3,000 to N7,000 depending on their sizes. They, however, added that there are smaller pots which sell for lower prices.
Another thing noticeable in the pottery was the array of women who had their children with them. Many of the children were performing one chore or the other in ensuring that the pots were moulded.
The leader of the pottery, Saka, while explaining its origin and practices said,"Dada is the name of this community. It is only in this place that pottery is done in Ilorin. If you find it elsewhere, they must have come here to learn it. This place is synonymous with pottery in Ilorin. It is hereditary. All our children partake in this trade. When they return from school, they join us in the trade. We are more than 100 women as only women have been partaking in it.
"Our raw material is clay sand. We get it from wherever septic tank or well is being sunk. It is the clay we get from the extraction that we use. After excavating the clay, we would put it inside water then remove it and sun-dry. We then grind it and apply water. It now becomes solid paste and we start moulding it. After this, we put the moulded but soft pots on fire and later put them in the sun. After, we decorate them. It takes about nine days to produce a good set of pots."
She stated that owing to the cumbersome production process and lack of technology to aid it, many young people find pottery unattractive and that the trade requires about N100,000 as start-up capital.
According to Saka, if well developed, the trade would provide lucrative jobs for many unemployed youths and while the Dada Pottery industrial estate would become an appealing tourist attraction in the state.
She, however, identified insufficient sun during the rainy season, unavailability of modern technology, finance and lack of encouragement from government as some of the challenges, potters at the pottery face.
"We need government assistance and urgently too. We require alternative technology to dry the clay. We also need ovens as used in bakeries. After getting the raw material, we would mould it, gather it and put sawdust and set it on fire. We spend money on wood and saw dust. If we can be given ovens, we will appreciate it.
"We also need financial assistance from government so that we can expand the business. We have written letters for assistance to some government bodies for financial assistance so that the trade will be more appealing to the younger ones. But it has been a tale of empty promises all along. Nothing tangible has come out of the calls for aid. They have been assisting other vocational workers that are even fewer than us and not as productive. We do not mind even if they can only give us revolving loans.
"Another challenge is that it takes a long time to recoup our investment in the trade. This is the more reason we need money. Government brings visitors from Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and other places to showcase our trade as one of the tourist sites and vocations in the state but they abandon us afterwards," she lamented.
The Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, said his administration is committed to the growth and development of artisans and all residents of the state.
He stated that it was for such reasons that the state government established the International Vocation Centre at Ajase-Ipo to train and develop skilled and unskilled manpower.
He added that his government had established a scheme that assists in the development of businesses in the state.
He noted that many artisans, farmers, small and medium enterprises and actors in other sectors of the economy had benefited from the scheme.
According to him, belonging to a cooperative society is essential to fully tap the benefits of the scheme.
He urged the potters at the Dada Pottery to form or belong to acooperative society so that they can access loan facilities, advisory and business growth enhancing services of the scheme.
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