I REMEMBER LAST year visiting a small pottery factory in the central town of Bahla in Oman. I watched a girl, she could not be more than fifteen years, grabbing wet clay and putting it in a spinner. Minutes later, she spun the handful of mud into the shape of a beautiful pot.
Because I was fascinated, her father spent the next ten minutes explaining the process. It was then I realised it was not a simple occupation. It was a work of art. When he asked me to have a go, I flatly refused. He insisted and said that it was simple because it was all in the mind and not in the hands. So I stood next to a spinner and by following his instructions, I started my first lesson in pottery. The first pot I produced looked like it went through a cruncher.
He smiled and shook his head. The man was not ready to let me go that easily. He went to the backroom and came back with a large pot. He placed it on the table. He asked me to get a good look at it. He then removed it. He told me to retain the picture in my mind. I should see that image in my mind while I spun a pot of my own. He then told me something I would never forget.
He said, “remember, the hands are the slaves of the mind. Concentrate on the image of the pot and let the hands follow the instructions of the mind.”
I did. The pot was not an impeccable piece but it was a very good attempt. Before I could ask me if I could have another go, he inquired what the nature of my visit was. I bought half a dozen pots and left his family’s factory. For some reason, I found the connection between the mind and the hands a bit disturbing. Perhaps I felt the relationship between master and slave might get out of control. Some images we pick on the long road of life are uncompromising. They play mischief in our minds when we refuse to discard them. If we do dismiss them, our thoughts create their own images that sometimes define the way we live.
I broke one of the pots as I unloaded them from the car. I smiled when a thought crossed my mind. Though it was gone, its image might be retained by the mind. It was not lost forever. Later that evening, the gentle words of the pottery factory owner was echoing in my thoughts. The town of Bahla is legendary for its witchcraft. Perhaps he was one of those who practiced magic and it was the reason his words had such an effect on me. I quickly got to my feet when I thought a shadow passed in front of me. I could not stay in my front yard any longer. I was strangely disturbed. I took a little walk but that did not improve the uneasiness. I had the five pots hung under the roof of my car park and their shadows on the interlock tiles were moving with the slight wind. With the short ropes around their necks, the shadows gave an impression of five little people being hung.
But with the sun shining bright the next day, the five pots looked ordinary. Like any pieces of ornaments in any house, they blended with the background after a few days, until a cousin visited my house and enquired about them.
He said, “these Bahla pots turn into little people sometime in the night.”
Akif Abdulamir is an Oman-based writer