This group of women in Mapuve village makes traditional pots from river clay. Their firing skills are exceptional. They decorate their pots with traditional and symbolic Tsonga patterns. They learned these skills from their mothers and the work they do has been part of their culture and ancestors for many centuries.
Spirits in the clay
It is believed that the women place their spirits into the clay before they actually start creating each pot. The production of the pot then becomes an extension of the collective energy that is evoked through the women’s songs. The Tsonga pots are traditionally hand-made from river clay that is sourced locally. Rocks are used to grind the clay. After digging it, the women place a small bundle of twigs from a sacred bush on top of the clay to appease the spirits. They then test the quality of the clay, when it tastes ‘sweet’, it will make excellent pots.
Pots have unique character
The Mapuve women have a big electrical kiln donated by a previous project but they don’t use it, on the one hand because electricity is too expensive but on the other hand because they prefer to make the pots the traditional way. These pots have its own unique character not easily duplicated with modern technology and methods.
Madi a Thavha has been selling Mapuve pots in our CraftArt Shop for several years and incorporate a visit to them during village tours to the remote Giyani district. In 2015 the Mapuve potters were part of our Creativity in Craft programme funded by the National Arts Council. During this time they got support on the job with product development and marketing.
Visit to another age
To those who would really like to see authentic rural life in remote parts of Limpopo, this is a good place to visit. Mapuve is a rural village situated along a gravel road about 10 kilometers from Giyani. This is a rural lifestyle in a harsh and arid environment with limited access to water and opportunities for farming. Yet in places like these one could still find authentic traditional crafts and skills.
Although most people here have several cell phones in a family, not many have smart phones or the technological know-how to use the benefits of the internet. In a world far removed from glitzy city life, to be travelling here feels almost as if you visit another age.