Zimbabweans make and use pottery today, as passed down through generations. The different Shona and Ndebele tribes are known to have practiced different ways of manufacture and decoration of clay pots. Present-day pottery traditions might, therefore, differ in terms of such aspects as color, shape and decorative patterns. In addition, a number of recorded vessel types are no longer widely seen. Traditional uses of pottery include cooking, serving and storage of food and drinks, bowls for washing and vessels for ritual purposes.
Generally, pots that are used for cooking and brewing beer are plain. Decoration is mostly done for pots used for drinking, serving food, storing dry foodstuffs or liquids and for washing. Pots are identified based on functionality – according to the use to which the pot is put; and visually – according to the proportionality of elements, the shape of the pot and its noticeable features. Techniques used for pottery have been handed down generally by women from generation to generation, and naturally, the form of pottery has evolved. European influence may have also influenced changes in pottery traditions.
Visual identification of pots
Visual differences of pots occur in the size and shape of the body, form of neck or rim, type of base, the width of the mouth, and proportion of depth to width. A range of sizes does occur for each type of pot. Zoomorphic pots with specialized use also occur.
Identification of pots by function
The visual identifiers of a type of pot generally go hand in hand with its functionality. The name might also go hand-in-hand with shape and use. Vessels identified in Shona pottery include:
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