clay furniture
by Francis Boateng

above and below,
work by Ito Atsuko

Ceramic Furniture Workshop
August 2002

This workshop was the most ambitious to date and so successful that it has become an ongoing program that will involve the original participants and others as they visit Aba House

A traditional potter, Dora Mensah participated in the workshop...

The artist in residence for this workshop was Barbara Allen. For her report on her experience in Ghana ...

photo slideshow

participant comments

Most Ghanaians have a nickname and delight in finding one for visitors. Barbara earned hers simply by making a clay pot.

Every activity, no matter how innocent, becomes a cultural lesson at Aba House. Barbara decided to use local materials to make a "memory" pot to take back to the States. She used a Japanese tea bowl technique and put a cultural twist on it by using local clay and found objects. She was seen wandering around the neighborhood collecting rusty nails, string, shells and other interesting discards.

She came back to the clay studio and started working by constructing the pot, poking holes in it, stringing on the nails, and as she was working people arrived for the ceramic workshop and started teasing her... something Ghanaians do so well. All the materials she used so innocently are used for juju, a very powerful African magic. The fact that she had a cowry shell band on her ankle just added to the merriment because cowry shells are a sure sign of juju.

So it was easy to name her "Juju Lady". Even before this, she was suspect because she brought a gift from her students in the USA. A clay bell with a metal ringer. When it was hung in the doorway of Aba House, there were knowing looks and a week later when she collected the ingredients and constructed the pot, there was proof positive. Although the accusations were all in fun, they led to late night discussions about magic and miracles. At 2 a.m. discussing the difference between God's miracles and the village man's magic makes for an interesting cultural exchange.

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