Many cultures in Belize use natural materials in their daily lives. Clay pottery making has been one of the traditional practices in Belize. Many objects of daily use are made through this method; this includes, bowls, incense burners, pots, and even the comal.
The materials used for this practice include, clay, jute shells, slate rock, grinding stone, baskets, sieve, bowls, Hearts seed (Tolochoch) and Calabash. In the traditional method of clay pottery making, no man-made materials are used to retrieve the clay. The retrieval of the clay is influenced by the lunar phases, when collected the clay is placed in a Champa, a traditional farm bag. These precautions are important because they influence the durability of the clay.
Clay pottery making is a spiritual process; therefore, the practitioner must be prepared spiritually in their heart, mind and soul. The process can be broken down into three main phases, the first phase includes the retrieval of the materials to be used from the earth and preparation of the clay, the second phase includes the mixing of materials and molding the desired object, and the third phase includes the burning (or curating) of the object.
The practice of clay pottery making varies from community to community and has been evolving and adapting to modern times. New techniques have been incorporated to the practice, including the usage of more modern materials such as pottery spinning wheels which assist in the shaping of objects.
Transmission and Safeguarding Practices:
Clay pottery making is a practice that is passed down from generation to generation, ‘intergenerational transmission’; therefore, most learning was done at home. Clay pottery making was a tradition of many families in the communities; therefore, the younger generations were encouraged to learn the practice. However, with the changing of times, learning this skill was not as necessary and the practice begun to dwindle.
In an effort to revive the traditional practice of pottery making, community members have taken it upon themselves to teach this practice. Community groups such as the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative have been established giving opportunities to community members, in particular women, to learn the skill.
Continuity of clay pottery making:
As clay pottery making has been evolving, incorporating modern techniques in the practice, so have the uses of the practice. The practice is no longer only used for the creation of daily use items such as bowls, incense burners, pots or comal. The practice of clay pottery making has been commercialized, providing a source of income to many families. Small pieces such as keychains, or other types of souvenirs are created for commercial purposes. These items can be found at local gift shops and on online platforms.
Clay pottery making classes have begun to be incorporated in tourist packages, offering a full cultural experience. Local community organized workshops have also begun to take place in an effort to teach this skill, ensuring its continuity.
Associated Cultural Forms, Traditions and Knowledge
(What other cultural forms and traditions, skills and knowledge are necessary for carrying out this practice?)
Environmental Knowledge: Sourcing materials,
Spaces for Enactment:
(What places, spaces and locations are integral to its practice?)
- Private Residence
- San Antonio Village, Cayo District
- San Antonio Village, Toledo District
- Maya Center Village, Stann Creek District
- Banquitas House of Culture
- San Ignacio & Santa Elena House of Culture
Communities and Groups Involved:
- Cultural Practitioners
- Community members
- House of Culture
- San Antonio Women’s Cooperative
List to other sources of information, including community resource pages:
Contributors to this Article:
(Including Belize ICH Network Members, National Institute of Culture and History Staff, and community informants who participated in the Inventorying Process): Mrs. Sebastiana Choc, Estrella Magana, Timotea Mesh, Aurelio Sho, Elissa Waight, Linette Sabido, Selene Solis)