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Igbo Pottery: The Udu Drum

How long has pottery been part of Igbo society?

Pottery has been part of Igbo culture for centuries, with some of the earliest artefacts dating back to 2500 BC. The most well-known examples of Igbo pottery are the 9th-century findings from Igbo Ukwu, which include many ornate pieces. (Image Below: Globular vessel with everted rim, Igbo Ukwu, terracotta, 1000 BP)

What is an Udu?

An example of Igbo pottery is the Udu. It is a unique, pot-shaped instrument that can be found throughout many Nigerian villages. It originated from the Igbo women of Nigeria, who used clay pots to store food, carry water, and even for beekeeping. (Read more about the science behind the udu pot here.)

The ability to craft an Udu is a highly valued skill in many rural communities. Young women usually learn this trade from a close female relative or as an apprentice.

Eugene Skeef’s Udu Project In Nigeria – 2005

Another function of the Udu is as a drum, with a single hole near the top half. As an instrument, it requires effort and talent to master because of the wide range of sounds it can make. The Udu drum is pot-shaped, with a hole on its side that is smaller than the palm of the hand. It is played by cupping the palm over the hole as it’s slapped or drumming the fingers near the hole to produce higher, more melodic tones.

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