Oman


Bahla clay art survives despite odds


Bahla, which was once famous for its pottery items, now has only half a dozen pottery making facilities operating. Photo: AR Rajkumar/ TIMES OF OMAN

Muscat: For more than four generations, members of the Adawi family in Bahla have nurtured and excelled in the art of creating pottery. They have sold their products to common people and sheikhs, both inside and outside of Oman.

But Said Abdullah Hamdan Al Adawi, the pottery maker from this generation of the Adawi family, is worried over the decline in the pottery industry and in seeing the possible end to the centuries-old art of Bahla pottery making.

"The new generation is not keen on taking forward this legacy of Bahla pottery making. Of course, I agree that it is not commercially doing well, as in the past," Abdullah told Times of Oman.

"Modernisation has also eliminated pottery utensils from kitchens. Now, they have become decorative items found in gardens and living rooms. So, business is down. Only once in a while do we get a few customers. This is also a worrisome trend for us," Abdullah added.

At present, there are only a half a dozen pottery making facilities operating in Bahla, which was once famous for pottery items. "When I was learning pottery making from my father, there were more than 20 locations in and around Bahla. But, now the numbers have fallen drastically," Abdullah said, while teaching his 12-year-old son Ziad Adawi the nuances in the art of making pottery.

Adawis have been the manufacturers of mousetraps, silver plates, honey and dates containers, and water storage pots, as well as 40-year-old lookalikes of china clay bowls made from clay, along with ordinary kitchen utensils and lamps.

"Clay mousetraps were common in the majority of the houses in Oman. But now, they have become antique pieces," Abdullah added.

According to Abdullah, he pays nearly OMR800 in expenses per month for production.

"The income is not satisfying. Just pushing the days ahead," Abdullah said.

"Purchasing raw materials for production costs me a lot. Sometimes, I have to purchase different types of clay from Jebel Akhdar mountains and other areas to make unique pieces. This costs me a lot," Abdullah noted.

Though the methods for producing pottery has changed, especially using kilns (ovens) and firing techniques, Said still practices pottery the traditional way, completely unaffected by the changing times and trends. Except that he uses an electric wheel, rather than the kick wheel.

"From the first stage of shaping raw clay to converting it into a final product needs more than one month, depending on the size, shape, design and glazing," Abdullah added, while watching Ziad shaping a new pot on the wheel.

"Ziad has an interest in making pottery items. He always stays with me in the factory. He is a good learner. I hope he may take forward our family legacy of pottery making," Abdullah said, while clearly appreciating Ziad's pottery making skills.

"In the coming days, making pottery will not be profitable enough to earn a living. But let him at least learn the art and take forward our family's legacy. Otherwise, it will die," Abdullah added.



To get in touch: reji@timesofoman.com

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