Dancing in Clay: Pottery-making as a Safe Space Activity for Girls in Southwestern Kenya

  • David Nyaberi
Keywords: Pottery making, traditional art, education, girl child education, gender equality



This paper explores elements of traditional art education embedded in pottery-making activities of a specific community among the Luo people of southwest Kenya. In a society where sociocultural norms tend to favor the education of boys over girls, conversations with Mama Nyungu—a pottery-making group in Homabay County in southwest Kenya reveal some sophisticated and organized tradition-related strategies for preparing young girls for adult life. In building upon Dietler and Herbich’s assertion that pottery making is “a social labor that involves women in an important network of shared activity, knowledge, and personal relationships” (1989 p. 149), this paper demonstrates that this network provides a haven for girls in a community with a tradition and history of underage marriages. Through engagement in and learning about the customs and norms expected of girls, pottery making activities provide a sanctuary, which enables young girls to complete their formal education.