I have just come across this photograph that I took in December 1965 as I was driving round Nigeria in an old and indestructible Peugeot and passed through Abuja. This was long before I thought that I’d have a life in ceramics but I was interested in the local, utilitarian pots, so I stopped to investigate the pottery. It is here that Michael Cardew had worked for 15 years and he must have just left. Of course, I knew nothing about him then. When I unearth my journal of that period I’ll post contemporary impressions, but I have a distant memory of feeling disappointed that the ceramics looked rather European, although I did buy a few small pieces to bring home.
I was much more proud of a real cooking pot that I had bought in the very unsophisticated Yoruba village of Igbo-Ora where I had lived for 8 weeks and somehow I got that home as well. I still have it, grass bonfire fired earthenware, very simply decorated with a corn-cob rolled round the rim. Although it was very serviceable for cooking over an open, log fire, it is extremely fragile and I have no memory now of the miracle I invoked to get it home safely.
These simple pots were coil built, while walking round and round a smoothly hollowed out tree trunk as the base mould. Being round bottomed, cooking was done with the pot supported on three stones while three logs were slowly pushed in between them as they burnt. You could, when passing, tell that there was a village hidden nearby in the bush by the delicious, caramel smell of plantain deep frying in the boiling, amber coloured palm oil.