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UNEMPLOYED youth can learn to make pottery at the Potamico Pottery Community Project, and use those artistic skills to create a name for themselves.

Located in Rosettenville, in southeastern Joburg, Potamico’s premises are quiet, with a security guard leaning against the green gates. You’d swear there was nothing going on here – but inside, it is the exact opposite of this calm stillness.

Laughter and chatter fill the building, which is alive with pottery manufacturing. In the small pottery studio two young women and a man are hard at work. The man shows the women how to make a planter. One sits working at the machine while the other watches, admiration in her eyes.

According to the project manager, Busi Mohlakoana, the place is quiet most of the time as people concentrate on their work.

The project started on 1 March 2011 as a non-profit organisation with the aim of creating jobs, particularly for women – it aims to engage women in sustainable development. The City sponsored the team with two rooms at the Southern Suburbs Recreation Centre.

Here, participants undergo three months’ basic training; an extra month of advanced training is also available. “We train a group of 15 people every three months,” says Mohlakoana. “At the moment there are 10 people who are training.”

Mohlakoana is joined by two men, who teach the group about different types of clay and how to make pottery. They make plates, pots for plants, vases, fruit bowls and other decorative pottery. However, the three-legged African pot is their favourite piece to make as it generates more income than the others.

“Many people like this pot; it is always in demand,” she says. “Other customers, especially black people, like ukhamba since they use it for traditional ceremonies and for decoration.”

The team uses two rooms in the centre, one for manufacturing and one as an administration office and for displaying their work. As small as it is, the room is fresh and warm. Different kinds and sizes of pots and vases fill the floor and stand on top of the cupboard. Their various shapes are painted in dark and bright colours.

Pride is written on the faces of the students as they show off and explain their work. It is clear that they are dedicated to their endeavours and are passionate about what they do. Mohlakoana studied pottery at college in KwaZulu-Natal in 2006, where she worked in social development until 2009.

Fanny Ndlovu, another trainer, learned pottery in 1996 at Lion Park. “I always had a love and passion for pottery and I learned to make pots back in 1996 at Lion Park near Lanseria. I worked there for two years before I moved to Brixton Recreation Centre, where I worked for two months before moving to work with a white guy,” Ndlovu explains.

Although they are still in need of sponsors, the project has been a success. They use self-marketing by going door to door, taking samples of their work to nurseries. They have also applied to the ward councillor to hold workshops at schools. “Local nurseries are the ones who buy our products the most,” says Mohlakoana.

People who are interested in joining the project pay a registration fee of R100. This contributes to buying clay and paint, among other things. “We have applied to receive sponsorship, but [have received] nothing so far. But we hope that something will come our way soon,” she adds.

Potamico Pottery Community Project is based at the Southern Suburbs Recreation Centre on Berg and Verona streets, in Rosettenville. For more information, contact Busi Mohlakoana on 076 072 2874.

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