African potters,primarily women, handbuild vessels that they embellish with beautiful colors, designs and motifs before firing them at low temperatures. Although cooking vessels are usually left unembellished, Shona storage containers are often burnished to a high sheen, and potters sometimes rub them with graphite powder to achieve a metallic luster. Then they ornament the pots around the shoulder with bold geometric patterns, most frequently simple crosshatched bands or large triangles in alternating black and ocher. By the early 1960s, some potters had also begun to use enamel or oil-based paint on their wares in place of more traditional pigments. The glossy red and black paints that embellish this Shona water container, for example, evoke the traditional graphite and ocher palette. The straightforward pattern of alternating red and black zigzags and triangles is beautifully proportioned to the size of the pot and is outlined with a wide, confidently drawn groove. Containers made for daily use hold water or serve as cooking utensils. The body of this vessel has a consistent thickness and is well burnished. The vessel's narrow, high-necked opening indicates it probably held water or the traditional maize beer.

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