China-in­spired Nige­rian pot­ter sees fu­ture in his craft

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For Joseph Ga­jere, a Nige­rian ce­ramist for more than two decades, a trip to China has re­de­fined the craft from be­ing a “walk of life” to a “way of life.”

Ga­jere was one of 50 pot­ters se­lected from dif­fer­ent de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to learn ceramic de­signs and meth­ods in China last year.

“The op­por­tu­nity has in­spired me greatly, and I see a brighter, re­ward­ing fu­ture in what I do,” he told Xin­hua in his Ushafa Pot­tery Vil­lage work­shop in the sub­urb of Abuja, the Nige­rian cap­i­tal.

Dur­ing the trip which lasted about six weeks and took him and other trainees to sev­eral cities in China, they learned how to do var­i­ous ceramic works us­ing var­i­ous ma­chines.

“China is at the peak in terms of ceramic works; Africa has a lot to learn from China,” Ga­jere said.

Fol­low­ing the ca­pac­ity build­ing he re­ceived in China, he sees the po­ten­tial of trans­form­ing cre­ations from sim­ple clay ma­te­ri­als to in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­cept­able ceramic works.

While in China, he made a num­ber of ceramic de­signs and a col­lec-

The Chi­nese have in­flu­enced my work greatly. They have given me hope that we (Africans) need to wake up to see how we can im­prove our pot­tery busi­ness.”

tion of Chi­nese porce­lains which have been dis­played at var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional ex­hi­bi­tions since he re­turned late 2016.

Some of Ga­jere’s works were on dis­play at a re­cently held art ex­hi­bi­tion at the China Cultural Cen­ter in Abuja.

His works, par­tic­u­larly the Chi­nese porce­lain and ceramic de­signs, caught the at­ten­tion of the ex­hi­bi­tion guests which in­cluded top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and diplo­mats.

“The Chi­nese have in­flu­enced my work greatly. They have given me hope that we (Africans) need to wake up to see how we can im­prove our pot­tery busi­ness,” he said.

The ce­ramist told Xin­hua his great­est joy is the abil­ity to teach and show his col­leagues most of the meth­ods he was taught in China.

He cur­rently heads the Ushafa Pot­tery Vil­lage which is a unit un­der the aegis of Arts & Cul­ture/So­cial De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tariat in Abuja.

At the pot­tery vil­lage, many wid­ows and young women are taught to make clay works to earn a liv­ing. They learn the craft, us­ing ei­ther ma­chines or man­ual ways to de­sign lo­cal pots.

Ev­ery year, Ga­jere tu­tors be­tween 10 and 15 new trainees at the pot­tery vil­lage.

“So, this gives me as­sur­ance that what I’ve learned in China will go a long way as I pass it onto ev­ery new gen­er­a­tion of pot­ters who come un­der my tute­lage,” he added.

Joseph Ga­jere, Nige­rian ce­ramist

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