On Motherhood & Sanity


Monday, November 21, 2011

social taboos, untouchables and the evil eye


People in this village have done pottery from time immemorial. Potters in Ethiopia are untouchables considered to have an evil eye. They must work alone so not to be harmed by other's evil eye. 

They can make the pots, but at weddings or other such social events they cannot eat from them but instead eat from leaves. If they touch what they created it becomes unusable. 

Many die digging the clay from underground. Girls get raped as punishment for  taking clay from other’s land. If a man or woman falls in love with a potter he/she will be disowned by the family. 

The pots cost nothing. They’re taken to the market, what is not sold is left behind. They don’t have the means to take it back. 


while digging out the clay there is always danger of the earth collapsing. Many have died this way


the holes can become quite large, increasing the chances of the earth collapsing over the workers

a group of men remove a piece of earth that has fallen over the entrance to the cave where they are extracting the clay

pottery is mostly undertaken by women. It is usually done alone as potters are believed to have an evil eye that could harm those around them

potters continue to use traditional methods for burning the clay

these are used to hold the hot injera bread, an essential part of traditional Ethiopian diet, and can be sold for 80 Birr at the market, less than $5 US dollars


usually entire families will work together in the same industry


continuous exposure to the high temperatures burn the skin and the eyes

as well as soil degradation, there is contamination of the air and the lungs are often afflicted.

Friday afternoon, pots waiting by the side of the road to be taken to the local market. Whatever is not sold will be left behind as the workers cannot cover the cost of transporting it back

1 comment:

Diana said...

So sad! and they do beautiful pieces of pottery that no one appreciates.