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.
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.
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 .
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.