The Most Delicious Meal is from the Pot: The Production and Use of Hand-built Ceramic Vessels in Marakwet, Northwest Kenya

By David Kay, Mr Timothy Kipkeu Kiprutto, Ms Helena Cheptoo, Mr Joseph Kimutai Cheptorus | 15 October 2021

This project aims to document the production and use of handmade ceramic vessels in the region of Marakwet, northwest Kenya, in terms of both present-day activities and shifting historical practices. The project will visually record the crafting process of women potters, from the initial collection of raw materials to the final firing, alongside the varied ways in which pots are subsequently obtained and utilised, predominantly within household settings. Oral historical recollections of ceramic production/consumption will also be used to chart changes in the material role of pots within the domestic lives of Marakwet communities across the past several decades. The documentation of such practices is timely, as only a handful of potters remain active across Marakwet, particularly its eastern part where this project is focussed, with pots themselves being increasingly replaced by industrially produced metal and plastic vessels. However, pots are still highly valued objects within many households, often being reserved for special culinary occasions due to their perceived superior performance and abiding cultural significance. Both newly made pots and older curated vessels hence remain key components of wider domestic assemblages—exhibiting a certain resiliency despite the incorporation of more novel household goods. In tracking the varied lives of these pots from a material and practice-based perspective, this project will thus articulate the complex processes of production, use and valuation that arise from Marakwet communities’ continued engagement with ceramic objects, despite the marked numerical decline in both pots and potters over the past fifty years.

 

PI:
David Kay

Collaborators:
Mr Timothy Kipkeu Kiprutto, Ms Helena Cheptoo, Mr Joseph Kimutai Cheptorus

Location of Research:
Kenya

 

Top Banner Image: Local pottery attaching handles to the body of a medium-sized cooking pot. Photo: David Kay