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Master potter Steve Benny demonstrates how to make deyas at his son’s shop along the Southern Main Road, Chaguanas.

RADHICA DE SILVA

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They have carried on the tradition of making hand-crafted clay pottery passed down to them over four generations.

But now the potters of Central Trinidad believe more must be done to preserve their legacy.

Already with the restrictions of COVID-19, the potters have cut back on how many deyas they produce this year. With Divali just a week away, the potters say they have been forced to diversify into other products.

During an interview with Guardian Media, owner of Donny’s pottery, Donny Benny said they were hoping that sales would pick up closer to Divali.

With three locations across the country, Benny said other types of pottery have been selling more frequently than deyas.

Saying that Divali was dying, Benny said COVID-19 had made the situation even worse.

“We know that people have scaled back on their celebrations. Many people will not light as many deyas as they did before. So we are catering for that and we have cut back a lot on what we usually manufacture,” Benny said.

He explained that all the potters of Chase Village are related and the tradition of crafting clay pots was still alive.

However he said the techniques used by the potters should be shared with the rest of the citizenry.

Donny said he hoped that the government could provide land to the potters where they could “source better quality clay and expand our trade for export.”

He also said there could be online classes teaching people the art of pottery.

His father Steve Benny said he was willing to teach anyone willing to learn. Benny said before COVID-19, there were school tours.

“We would let the children come and have a go on the spinning wheel,” Benny said.

Among the items that the family produces are deyas, clay vases, goblets, orchid pots, kalsas, candle holders.

They have also started going ornamental concrete moulds.

Donny said some products have also been brought in from Venezuela.

He said the older potters had skills which have not been passed on to future generations.

“This work is very tedious and you must have a love for it,” he said.

Meanwhile, another potter Andy Benny also said that he too had cut his production by 50 per cent.

The potters say if they had not diversified into other seasonal products, they would not have survived economically during the COVID-19 period.