The Parliament Diary

By Chiazor Faith, Abuja

The Original Inhabitants of the Federal Capital Territory have appealed to government at all levels to support potters with modern equipment for the preservation of their cultural heritage and economic development in order to compete with the international market.

On the 8th of October 2022, the Original Inhabitants of Abuja held their one-day field tour at the Ushafa Pottery Centre to showcase their cultural heritage and teach younger generations to sustain and preserve their culture. This event was put together to commemorate the graduation of natives who were trained in the art of pottery in a free skill acquisition organized by Mairo Women Foundation, Ushafa. The event also saw a variety of cultural performances such as the Amadawa dance of the Gbagi tribe, masquerede displays, and exhibitions as well as sales of pottery and ceramic products.

The Executive Director of Mairo Women Foundation, Dr. Mrs. Maryamu Isa Barnabas, while speaking to our correspondent, gave an insight into the art of pottery as their cultural heritage. According to her, pottery is an ancient craft which has helped in promoting culture, art, and tourism for the original inhabitants of the FCT, especially in Bwari Area Council, where the Ushafa Pottery Centre is located and known for its years of unique pottery handicraft.

“In her words, training young people in the art of pottery had become crucial to the preservation of their cultural heritage”. She noted that a total of 30 students have been trained in 2022 alone, that they look forward to replicating this training in other parts of the FCT, and that the training is open to accommodate non-natives of any demographic irrespective of their academic level, especially women, who are interested in the art of pottery. She also pointed out that the training is aimed at eradicating poverty and unemployment. Hon. Mairo as she is fondly called thanked their sponsors, the Mac Arthur Foundation USA, for their intervention in helping to revive their culture from extinction through their benevolence.

Speaking further, she called on the Federal and Local Governments to support the preservation of their cultural heritage by intervening in the rapid allocation of lands containing pottery raw materials to private individuals, thereby restricting their access to production materials, which she called “treasure”. She called on the government to help secure such lands containing their cultural reserves. She further decried their lack of standard equipment for the production of ceramics, and also pleaded that the FCT Area Council Chairmen should support them with free training centres to encourage the training of people in their various wards for the sake of cultural preservation.

While admonishing the participants, the representatives of the Mac Arthur Foundation from the United States of America, expressed excitement at the cultural dances, pottery and ceramic products displayed in the showroom, the local factory, communal workers in action, and the production process. They emphasized that they were impressed on the effort made at training the graduands as they believe that to train a woman is to train a generation.

In a chat with Elisha Gimba and Tanko Dakoyi Ushafa, the Programme Director and Master Trainer respectively, they told our correspondent that their duty is to identify interested young people and work with a team of other trainers to train them in the skill of pottery. Gimba revealed that the production and sales of the pottery and ceramic products are supervised by Mairo Women Foundation as various stakeholders collectively produce and share proceeds after sales of their products. He explained that this became necessary given the fact that most individuals lacked sufficient equipment to function independently.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tanko on his part, said that he inherited the art of pottery from his late mother, and also runs his own personal pottery business from his compound.

Speaking with Ndazhi Kenneth, a native of Peyi-Ushafa in Bwari Area Council and one of the pottery graduands on why he chose to learn the skill of pottery, he said that he decided to learn pottery in order to support sustenance of the cultural heritage of his people. He emphasized that his intention was not just to learn the skill, but to actually practice it because he considers it a productive and lucrative career path, if well equipped. He confirmed to The Parliament Diary that he is grateful to have acquired the skill for free. However, Ndazhi considered it important to put out a request for the government to invest in pottery, as this would provide employment for many jobless Nigerian youths. In his words, “The industry needs oxygen, and this oxygen is the support of the government. All natural resources needed for the production of pottery and ceramic products, such as kaolin, clay, and other glazing agents, can be found within the FCT. What is therefore needed is for the government to support the industry with modern equipment, as this would help the products of the original inhabitants of FCT compete in the international market.

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