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Making Clay Pots On Kilimanjaro

The Chagga people are mountain people, who live on and in the shadow of Kilimanjaro – Northern Tanzania. They once believed in Sheuta and ancient creator god who formed the human race as a potter creates earthen vessels.

It is possible to still visit some of the villages on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro and be the only non-chagga for miles. One such place is Uru, just a few miles from Moshi Town and the booming tourist industry.

Even to this day in Uru people talk of the process of pot making is akin to the creation of life in a woman’s womb. In the village of Uru in Northern Tanzania, usually the women folk are the potters. This profession is traditionally passed down from mother to daughter. Typically men do not participate in this trade.

The clay is dug out of the earth in large clumps, using a traditional hoe; this is back breaking and time-consuming work. These large pieces of clay are then taken home and broken into smaller lumps; water is added to make the clay a little easier to work with. The consistency must be easy to handle – being very careful not to make it too wet. This is achieved by pummeling and needing the clay. A ball of clay is formed, then working quickly, turning and working the clay with the whole hand, fingers, and palms, continually tuning the container in a rhythmic manner – this process is completed surprisingly quickly.

Once finished the women spend time on the details, some of the better potters marking their pots to make them distinct. The larger pots are made from producing long sausage shaped coils and these coils are wound around and around to from a pot. The sides are smoothed with water to remove the corrugated effect. Many home made tools are used in this process, scrapers, knives twigs and bits of timber.

The pots are then put in the shade to dry which can take up to four days for the larger pots. The pots are fired by covering them with a loose pole of wood and dried fragments of banana tree and the pot is half fired half smoked, this process takes an hour or two.

Once the fire has died down the pots are carefully removed from the ashes whilst still very hot. They are rubbed with leaves to give them a distinct colour and to seal them. Many of these pots will be used to cook food; a traditional meal of plantain and meat is traditionally cooked in these clay pots over an open charcoal fire.

These women are very talented at what they do although for all the effort and hard work not to mention talent a pot can be purchased for a dollar or maybe two.

Mtori soup, made from plantain, is usually eaten for breakfast. Bellow is a recipe for this thick banana and meat stew.

1 kilo beef short ribs
2 teaspoons salt
10 Plantain [green banana] peeled and sliced
4 medium-sized (King Edward) potatoes - peeled
2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 Tbs. butter

Put the s ribs, enough cold water, and salt in a large casserole pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim the foam and scum as they rise to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 1-1/2 hours.

Add the plantains, potatoes, and onions, and continue simmering for another 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender and the potatoes can be mashed.

Remove the short ribs from the pot. Remove the meat from the bones and cut away the fat and gristle, and discard. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces.

Purée the soup and vegetables. Return the purée to the pot, add the meat, and stir in the butter. Adjust seasoning - Enjoy. Coconut milk is sometimes added toward the end of cooking to make the soup even richer.

Submitted by:

Kalisti Juma

This article was written by a group called Tunaweza. They support and set up Community Initiatives in East Africa. http://www.tunaweza.com - for information on Tanzania safaris and tourist information http://www.betheladventure.co.uk this company supports respons responsible tourism.




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