‘Our Past, Our Present, and, Most Importantly of All, Our Future’: The Role of Potters in Botswana

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Phenyo Churchill Thebe


This study integrates various multi-disciplinary approaches on ceramics that provide coherent answers to the past, present and possibly the future of the subject. Special focus is on the four main stages of pottery production in south-eastern Botswana: raw material acquisition and processing, forming and shaping, decoration and surface treatment, and firing and finishing of pots. The purpose is to demonstrate the changing pottery traditions in Botswana over the last 50 years. This period is marked by conflicting land uses affecting pottery raw materials due to the expansion of villages, cities and industries following the post-Independence economic boom. Global warning has also taken its toll on potters as there is a shortage of resources –especially clay, temper, oxides, fuel and water. In recent years, potters who have adopted modern technology by spinning their pottery on the wheel and using modern kilns that require power, but these have been affected by power shortages. In addition, traditional potters face water shortages due to recent drought and fuel for making pots as a result of deforestation. Despite these challenges, potters in south-eastern Botswana still find potting to be a source of livelihood beyond subsistence farming, which also is drastically affected by global warming.

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