“loola k-kasuura ma-kaanit il-faxuura, ‘were it not for breakages, there would be no potteries.’”
—From an Egyptian rhyming proverb in Fayoum Pottery
Author and translator Hewison paints a vivid and intimate portrait of the life and work of
, a fertile depression in Egypt’s Western Desert. Beginning with Khnum, the ancient Egyptian god of fertility who shaped the mud of the Nile on his potter’s wheel to create humankind, Hewison traces the centrality of ceramics in Egyptian culture via tomb paintings featuring potters and supplicants bringing offerings in clay vessels on to 12th Dynasty mud-brick pyramids. The heart of the book centers on three villages: in al-Nazla, potters keep alive ancient traditions, hand-forming spherical water jars, while Kom Oshim is known for its garden pots and utilitarian ware. The third village, Tunis, now a thriving art village with more than 25 pottery workshops and showrooms, is home to the Tunis Pottery School, whose founders, inspired by the
, opened the school to teach village children ceramic-making skills.