Call to save a dying craft

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As we approach our 39th anniversary of Independence, Observer media spoke to one of only five individuals still engaged in pottery-making in Antigua and Barbuda. Pottery-making is an old craft going back hundreds of years.

Seventy-year old Hyacinth Hillhouse, born and raised in the village of Seaview Farm, where pottery-making originated, because of its clay soil, spoke about the cultural legacy passed down to her family over a century ago by her grandmother. 

“My mother was doing pottery, and her mother before her. It began with my grandmother over one hundred years ago, I was born into it. I had to learn on my own. We would do a thing Saturday-time; when the old lady gwarn a town, my mother died 1987, she was a very tall and quiet person,” she said fondly.

Hillhouse continued, “We couldn’t do it when she was around, she would try to stop us from doing it, because people used to think that it’s a degrading job in the village. Why? I don’t know. Now they sorry they never learned, so they could do it too and pass it on to the young people.” 

Hillhouse added that she is proud to be one of the few people making pottery.

“I love my work; meh enjoy plenty ah clay pon fu me skin, nuh. It preserves your skin, I see women go to fancy places and get their faces muddy-up, I don’t have to go anywhere; if you look at my hands you will see how smooth they are. 

Hillhouse stated that she has acquired lots of knowledge from pottery. 

“I learned to understand, see things, I would go to places and observe so much that people don’t see. I learned to be calm when I see danger.” 

She revealed that, “In the olden days the men used to work in the sugar factory; the younger generation used to work at the factory while the women did pottery. The man and them didn’t do pottery, they helped. We also had the tinsmiths and the blacksmiths, those are the people that used to make the horseshoes and iron and so on, they used to have that at the sugar factory too.

“But almost every house in this village of Seaview Farm used to do pottery. You see like Friday-time, when everybody baking and you tap down by Wills, the race track, all you see ah smoke from up here. 

“We used to be the healthiest village in the island, because when all them smoke run-out the mosquito them and send them a town, arwe up-yah good. 

“In the village they used to have one phone, and it belonged to the minister. It was the one that you spin, if you had an important call you go to the minister, and the wealthy people had their phones. 

“The community has now modernised and developed; persons now have two and three phones. 

“I would encourage all the young people to get into pottery. In this village we need to bring back pottery full-time, because when you go to other islands you see them making bricks; we could make bricks.

“To build a pottery industry you won’t have to bring anything from overseas since all the resources needed are right here on the island. 

“First thing in Antigua, we have to teach history in the schools. We have a problem with history, they tek up everybody’s history and then run with it. We need our history.

“We have so much culture in Antigua and people just let it idle.  “If we preserve our culture nobody will come and push us around.”

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