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Ellen Masule: master potter.

During a recent research trip by Sister Namibia to Caprivi Region, our weekend mission was to find fine pottery. We were informed that Siseke Village on the eastern border to Botswana was the place to go, and Ellen Masule was the potter to look out for. To our great fortune we found her there, and she showed us the group of pots she was preparing to fire that night. Their serene beauty ensured our return the following day with enough boxes to bring them all safely back home to Windhoek. We asked her to tell us about her work.

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Ellen Masule remembers the exact day on which she took up pottery--it was on 15 March 1987, when she needed money to pay the school fees of her eldest child. She had started to develop her creative skills in her own primary school years, learning to knit, tailor and make brooms. Her first earnings were from mats made from reeds she cut along the banks of the Linyanti River; making baskets became her next enterprise.

"Then I observed that tourists coming to our region were more interested in buying pots, so I decided to learn pottery," she says with a broad smile. "I watched some of our master potters here in the region at work. Then I attended a pottery course held at the Caprivi College of Education. Everyone laughed at me because I was such a novice, but at the end of the workshop I won a prize for the best pot!"

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Other prizes followed, and her pots are now sought after not only for exhibitions held by the National Art Gallery of Namibia but by art lovers from overseas. She recently represented Namibia, together with two other visual artists, at the SADC Multi-Disciplinary Festival 2003 in Pretoria.

Ellen Masule has built her own studio and become a trainer herself, passing on her skills to many other women living in Siseke and surrounding villages. Pottery has become her way of life, and each pot is a unique creation.

"Tell me when you are ready, and I'll make you some big pots," she says as we leave.

We hereby place that order!

Text and photos by Liz Frank
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Author:Frank, Liz
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:6NAMI
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Words:373
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