Water Container (Nyondedaa or Nyonnyodaa)

A work made of blackened terracotta.

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  • A work made of blackened terracotta.


Early/mid–20th century


Burkina Faso
Northern Africa and the Sahel

About this artwork

As throughout much of Africa, among the Lobi pottery is practiced by women and is learned through apprenticeship. Potters form the base of a pot by pushing directly into a lump of clay and build up the walls with coils. Using a corncob or fruit peel, they smooth and refine the form, which they then burnish with a flat stone. Impressed patterns are added when the work is leather hard. The Lobi greatly admire well-made vessels for such qualities as “balanced shape and size, flawless work, smooth polishing, uniform coloration, regular and painstaking decoration, a pure ringing tone, [and] functionality.” Married women accumulate as many containers as possible, not for use but for display, and keep them stacked in their homes, sometimes with jewelry or cash secreted away inside. A talented potter who specializes in the production of the most highly valued containers, including those meant to hold beer and water, can expect to make a good living.

Thin, egg-shaped containers with slightly flared necks are commonly used to store drinking water and are highly esteemed. Like this one, they are impressed across the shoulders with patterns of arcs, triangles, and bands in distinctive combinations that highlight the maker’s individuality. The potter begins by outlining the pattern with the sharp edge of a stone, and then fills in areas with a twisted-fiber roulette, a spring, or a notched iron bracelet. Here, irregular lines of closely spaced dots were densely applied to fill in a large zone around the neck. The area’s scalloped lower edge joins with a narrow string of lines around the shoulders, defining arched niches. These enclose delicate, linear motifs, punctuated by larger dots, which add a more contemplative counterpoint to the embellishment.

—Revised from Kathleen Bickford Berzock, For Hearth and Altar, African Ceramics from the Keith Achepohl Collection (2005), p. 71.

Currently Off View

Arts of Africa




Water Container (Nyondedaa or Nyonnyodaa)


Burkina Faso


Made 1900–1950


Blackened terracotta


45.1 × 36.8 cm (17 3/4 × 14 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Keith Achepohl

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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