Erusu: The home of pottery

By Kehinde Adejumo
Erusu – Akoko, is in Akoko North-West  Local Government area of Ondo State. The community lies on the Ikare / Ikaram / Ajowa road and  is only a few minutes drive to Ikaram, the town  that  hosts the  United Nations Millennium  Village.

The town, unknown to many people  has its  own identity which if well managed could make the  economic hub of the local government ,  the state and the country at large.

Apart from  her  array of  successful sons and daughters who are doing well in their various fields of endeavour, Erusu Akoko town is a home to traditional pottery, in fact, for every household in Erusu, pottery  is what they eat, drink, sleep, talk and think virtually every second of their daily existence. although the people are predominantly farmers, they are involved  in other vocations and economic activities.

Pottery is the vocation which the people have chosen above others it is  the women in the town that do the work, the craft is passed from mother to their daughters through apprenticeship.

Every home in Erusu Akoko is more or less a pottery factory where family members, mainly women  produce five to ten pots, of various sizes in  a day.

The pots are of various sizes and range, from the normal pots used in cooking soups and yams to the flat ones used in processing garri. The history of pottery in the town is as old as the town itself and nearly all female  children and the males possessed the skill of traditional  pot making.

Pots in the area are of various sizes , forms, shapes and styles. These include  Cooler  called “Amu” in local parlance, open mount bowls,  “ape” – soup bowel called Isasun and the fryers called Agbada.

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Others are money safe “kolo”, dye pots, Ikoko aro and large fermentation pot called ” Isa ” which are commonly used to ferment farm produce and food items, such as cassava for fufu  and lafun, corn for  local wine and others.

When Community Hope got to Erusu Akoko  during the week,  it was marveled  by the expertise skills of the largely uneducated, but skillful women, despite the absence of  high technology that is associated with the craft today.

It is interesting seeing these women working with great zeal despite their old age.

Speaking  with Mrs Adenike Aturabi an old woman in her early  seventies, she explained that Pottery in Erusu is as old as the town itself.  According to her, it is an act passed down from mothers to  daughters. She  said she learnt the trade from her mother by staying with her during production hours , she however  lamented that none of her own daughters showed any interest in learning the trade.

“None of my daughters is into pottery, I am afraid that this trade will go  into extinction after my demise  because they all wants  to do government work. None of them want to learn this lucrative trade.

” l appeal to the government to introduce Pottery  to the school curriculum in all the primary and secondary schools in Erusu town, so that the trade that brought  us out of obscurity to limelight will not go into extinction, ” Adenike said.

Speaking about the  process of making pots, Adenike said the process begins with the sourcing for clay called  amo in local parlance.

According to her, this is got from a bush not too far from the town, she said unlike the olden days when they used their heads to carry it from the clay site to the house  “but now everything is now easy  stressing that with N2,000 one can transport sufficient clay that will be enough to make close to ten or fifteen pots depending on the sizes.

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From there, the clay will be beaten with mallet ” called “kumo “in local parlance and mashed into soft and well grinded grains while it is mixed with water to attain the required paste.

Once this stage is completed , production of a pot begins by putting the clay in a mould while  small pieces of clay are added at a time to make the desired types and sizes of pots.

The process, according to her continues with the smoothing of the inner and outer part of the  pot with  a small circular object made from palm frond.

This, they do by constantly dishing the object in a bowl of water that is at a close range  and rubbing it against  the sides of the pot . These continue until the  desired smoothing is achieved or when,  they see that  the pot is in the right shape.

Aturabi said when the pot is ready, it is  then left in the sun to dry for three to five days while the clay hardens. It is then taken for firing. It was noted that the place for firing are always close to the shed. She said the reason was to make way for proper monitoring during firing.

After this, the pots are now removed from fire and left in an open place to cool down after which they are packed in the store for safety and ready for the market.

When asked how much is needed on a very small scale she said one could start on a very small scale with an amount ranging from N5,000 to N10,000 stressing that “that is enough to make between 15 and 20 pots. With this trade, I was able to sponsor the education of my children and built this small house” , she said .

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According to her, Erusu women are very hard working. “We contribute largely to the up bringing of our children. We do  not leave  the work for our husbands alone”.

Another  Potter, Mrs Asake Adeoyo lamented  that things have not been rosy with the trade because of the downward trend  in the fortune of the trade. “We no longer make enough money, because sales are now low due to  the introduction of modern aluminium pots, that have flooded the market.  This has crashed the market price of our local pots”, She lamented.

While wondering  why government decided to neglect the  trade , she said it would have been a good source of providing employment for the unemployed youths in the the country.

According to Adeoyo, some government   officials came to them sometimes ago with a promise to assist with modern  machines to  make their trade easier. But that promise appears to still be hanging without  fulfillment.

They however appealed to the Ondo State Government to come to their aid by providing them with machine and financial assistance to enhance their  trade.

She said with the availability of raw materials,  coupled with provision of  modern machines millionaire could be made out of Erusu. With proper  orientation and training, opportunities abound to make money in the act of pottery. It is also possible to diversify into making ornamental pots  and verse and these are all money spinner.

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