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Balkhar – the center of ceramics.

The Republic of Dagestan, Akushinskiy region, Balkhar village

Balkhar is a lakish village situated in Akushinskiy region of Daghestan. It is famous first of all by its ceramics. From ancient times only women did pottery.Women form their works on a potter’s wheel – julla (round board spinning on a bar), which is covered by ashes and a plate of clay is put on it. Ready product is burnt in kiln and after drying they begin beautiful two-colored painting, after which a wonderful world of fairytales comes alive with their fantasies, dreams and hopes.

Not far from Balkhar there is a lake from which clay viscid like plasticine is got, and in the mountains to the east and west from aul there are deposits of colored clay – red and white. With the help of these two colors women of Balkhar create their infinite ornaments, rich in their different variations with all their diversity keeping unity of style. In the ancient times only necessary in everyday use things were made – watering pots, churns, bowls, dishes. Balkhar vessels always were much in demand. In 1936 a special artel was organized in Balkhar and soon skillful painters appeared. The first of them became Patimat Amirkhanova, whose pottery was exhibited in Moscow, and albums with her patterns are still kept in the archive of the Museum of visual arts of A.S. Pushkin. 

A legend of the first potter, a certain Kalkuchi, lives in Balkhar. This beggar once sat on the bank of the lake and sadly reflected about how to live further. Unwillingly he paid attention on children who were sculpturing something of lakeside clay. Kalkuchi decided to sculpture something himself, and when he could make a beautiful jug, this became the beginning of the famous Balkhar trade.

Having mastered ceramics, Kalkuchi taught it to his fellow villagers, but somehow it were women who could make the most beautiful and refined vessels. Thus, according to the legend, women started to produce the famous ceramics in Balkhar.  There is a strict prohibition on participation of men in pottery, coming from the remains of matriarchy in Balkhar. A man shouldn’t have even touched a potter’s wheel. A person who has broken this taboo was fined. He had to treat 6 people of a certain house. This fine was actually one of the forms of ritual sacrifice.  

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