Thursday, April 22, 2010

More on Gatagara Pottery

Last week I returned to Gatagara Pottery as part of training, first to conduct a needs assessment and then to do a presentation. 

The Pottery cooperative was originally founded in the 1970s when European ceramists helped set it up using local materials, fusing modern ceramic technology and traditional pottery methods of the Twa. Before 1994, the cooperative supported up to thirty families, but lost some twenty members during the genocide. In 1997 a European charity helped the Pottery restart. Today they have ten members who receive a monthly salary. All are male (they expressed the belief that previously women were not considered strong enough for their work, but today they would be welcome). Their main challenge is finding customers: some weeks they receive none or one customers in Gatagara, and their only other markets are one shop in Kigali and one hotel in Nyungwe. One or two times a month they receive orders for products. 
Nearly all the materials are found within 1-15 kilometers from Gatagara: Clay, kaolin, bricks for the kiln, and materials for the glazes including feldspar, talc, iron oxide, and ashes of eucalyptus, straw and hay. Only sieves and a few components of the glazes are imported from Belgium. They can store the clay for up to several years. They throw on both manual and electric wheels, do an initial bisque firing at 950-1000 degrees Celcius, then glaze the ceramics and fire them again at 1300 degrees.
Their work is very high quality, but their self-promotion has been limited. In our presentation, we spoke to them about techniques they could use to market themselves. We recommended that they improve their bare-bones sign on the main road to advertise a demonstration and gift shop. We also provided them with contact information for various hotels and tourism agencies, and demonstrated a phone call with a hotel to ask about sending visitors to the Pottery or selling their products. Although we had to overcome a few communication issues, hopefully our advice was useful to the cooperative.


  1. Can you provide directions from Kigali...on the road to Butare? What is the last town you pass before turning right on to the small road that leads you to Gatagara Pottery location?

    Thank you, Charlene Jendry

  2. I second that request - if we would like to visit, how do we get there?


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