It all began in Höhr-Grenzhausen in 1600, with salt-glazed stoneware, which still forms the backbone of this little Westerwald town’s global reputation as a centre for ceramics. Back then, potters from the Rhineland region and Lothringen settled in the Westerwald to get to know the source of the material better: The clay from the Westerwald has properties that are excellent for the production of stoneware.
Today, not only are there lots of little potteries in and around Höhr-Grenzhausen, there is also a ceramic training and research centre and the largest ceramics museum in Europe. Here, you can find out lots about the long history of the bluey-grey stoneware, traces of which can be found almost everywhere in the world. Even in Africa.
Arnette Zeischka-Kenzler, an archaeologist who also works at the ceramics museum in Höhr-Grenzhausen, explains the travels of Pastor Leonhard Meurer who visited many West African countries in the late sixties and onwards, and kept coming across Westerwald stoneware. He asked the owners in remote villages on the Ivory Coast, in Ghana and Burkina Faso and found out that only tribal elders, kings and those in privileged positions were allowed to drink from these vessels. They were gifts from European traders or given in exchange for gold, spices or ivory.
The jugs have been passed down from generation to generation and can never be sold, as they believe this would bring bad luck on the family. Their ancestors would be more likely to forgive them for exchanging them, for medication, for example.