Syrian potter strives to keep craft alive amid war

Syria, June 23 (Xinhua/UNB) — After the war in the Syrian northern city of Aleppo broke out, Zakaraia Qarkoush, carrying his pottery craft, escaped to the central city of Homs.

Ahead of the war, there were 13 pottery factories in Aleppo. However, the raging war has destroyed the factories and displaced the people.

Qarkoush, who inherited pottery craft from his father and grandfather, sought refuge in Homs, where the situation was relatively safer.

The passion for the craft that Qarkoush developed as a boy is the source of his survival because he wants to keep doing what he loves.

“We have inherited this job from our grandfathers and I have been working for 35 years,” he said.

According to the 43-year-old craftsman, he left Aleppo with his children seven years ago and settled in the Ashirah area where the children started to learn and help him in his pottery work.

It took him two years in Homs to ponder over what to do before he finally realized that his original job was the only thing he really wanted to take.

“When the crisis erupted in Aleppo, we got displaced and came to Homs. I didn’t want to leave this job because I love it so I worked in pottery in Homs with my children,” he explained.

The man started making small pottery in a small workshop before his business got bigger.

In his current workshop, Qarkoush has a room for making the clay into different shapes such as vessels, water pots as well as artistic waterfalls which people buy to be displayed in their salons or the living room.

He brings the soft clay and put it on a machine while he is gently touching the clay from different angles to shape it before it gets hard.

Later, he puts it in an oven-like chamber and then in a sunny room for drying. Afterward, he brings it to a damp room for a few hours before selling.

Qarkoush said he was amazed by the high demand for pottery in Homs where the only pottery factory was destroyed during the war, which makes him the only man making pottery there.

“There is a big turnout for this kind of art here in Homs,” he told Xinhua.

The craftsman said the war has largely affected pottery in Syria, adding besides his workshop, there is only one pottery factory in the capital Damascus and another in Latakia Province in northwestern Syria.

In Aleppo alone, 13 pottery factories stopped working during the war, he lamented.

“Now, I am alone here in Homs in addition to a factory in Damascus and Latakia. The war has largely affected our work because out of 100 professionals ahead of the war, there are now only 15 across Syria,” Qarkoush said.

The Syrian man now works with his young children whom he taught throughout the past years in Homs.

However, he still believes that “as long as people are demanding this craft and as long as children are willing and having the passion to learn it, the craft will survive.”