Banh Chhkol has gone absolutely potty. Houses in the model village some 10 kilometres from the town of Kampong Chhnang are crammed with cooking pots, vessels, urns, even elephant “piggy” banks.
“The majority of the more than 100 families in this village produce pots,” says Duy Rin, 55. “Just one or two don’t.”
Like most other villagers, Duy Rin comes from a family of potters.
“We have a tradition of producing pots going back a very long time,” she says. “The clay here is very special. If it were not so good, the pots would break when we bake them.”
Duy Rin is standing around a bonfire on which she has just baked about 50 cooking pots.
“When we have enough pots we bake them,” she says. Amid all the red pots, one has turned black. “We cover the pots with grass and leaves. When we leave a hole in the covering, the pot turns black not red.” The black pot is now useless.
While the women of the village mould the clay and then bake the pots, it’s the men who sell them. Duy Rin’s son-in-law will travel around the country in his cart, selling these pots.
“Each time he spends about 10 days and then comes back,” says Duy Rin.
At the other end of the village, Eang Samphos is a relative newcomer to the potters’ wheel. She has been studying how to make cooking pots at the village cooperative for a year. Today, she is poking holes in the clay tray that forms the middle of the pots, separating the charcoal.
Each day she makes 50 trays, for which she receives 10,000 riel.
“I like the work here, if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t do it,” she says. “Each course has 10 women. When they finish the course, they work from home.”
The cooperative provides loans for the trainee potters to set up their own micro-enterprises, but this is of little use to Eang Samphos, who is running the risk of being kicked out.
“The organisation requires me to leave because I already know how to make the pots,” she says. “But I don’t have any land to set up my own place, so I still work here.”
INTERPRETER: RANN REUY