African ceramics often serve as objects of both utility and beauty in domestic settings or carry symbolic import central to social identity, economic and political status, ritual practice, and belief. Their study reveals the skill and invention of their makers, who are, more often than not, women. It is often represented as a form of expressive culture, and significant gaps remain in our awareness and understanding of historic and contemporary ceramic traditions across Africa.
African ceramics started to gain more exposure and publicity in the 1970s and today you will find African pottery in museums and private collections across Europe and the United States.
In West Africa, much of the pottery is derived from their own cultural traditions. Much of the older pottery from this region has no recordings, thus it is often difficult to determine the age, origin and value of the item. If we wish to understand better the social and spiritual meanings of individual pots, then we need to know something of the women and men who made them and the social, economic, and spiritual contexts within which they were conceived, created, and used.
The process of ceramic production can differ tremendously across different regions of Africa, including the tools and equipment used as well as the range and variation in ceramic assemblage. Many potters across Africa build their pottery by hand and have an amazing passion for the medium of clay, and his/her self-conscious respect for both tradition and innovation.