Mortar is a traditional grinding and crushing device carved from hard wood and used mostly in African kitchens/homes to pound substances and ingredients for making food.
The mortar usually comes with a pestle – which is a rounded grinding club often made of the same material as the mortar.
In Zaria, artisans who produce these traditional implements are gradually phasing out from the business and becoming very rare with the advent of modern utensils which are taking over their functions.
An 87-year-old producer of mortar and pestle in Zaria, Alhaji Muhammadu Mai Turmi, said he has been in the trade for over 70 years and is still producing the items despite old age.
According to him, there are very few of them still in the production of mortar, not only in Zaria but across the northern parts of the country.
According to him, the difficulty of the trade has made it unattractive, especially to the youth.
Mai Turmi, whose production base is located by the fence of Queen FM Radio station in Tudun Wada Zaria, noted that the younger generation has no interest in the trade due to the tedious nature of mortar and pestle production.
He boasted that the production of mortar and pestle was the only existing trade that is purely a male business, stressing that no female has ever engaged in the business for time immemorial.
Mai Turmi added that it is not only rare but completely impossible to see women engage in the making of mortar and pestle anywhere in the country.
“In the course of this trade, I have travelled far and near; visiting many states in the north to market my product, but have never come across any female who conducts this business.
“There was a time I went to Mecca with 40 mortars which I sold at Saudi Arabia. I therefore disagree with the popular saying that “What a man can do, a woman can do better.”
“I also challenge women to come out and join in the moulding and production of mortar and pestle if truly they are in competition with men,” Mai Turmi challenged.
According to him, mortar making is not an easy business, though it fetches money.
He noted that since he started the business, he has never lacked. He noted that to the Glory of God, the trade has led him to owning a house, going for pilgrimage, married eight times in his lifetime and in taking care of his many children and siblings.
“I have even travelled outside the country to sell my goods in Niger Republic, Ghana, Chad, Cameroon and Saudi Arabia.
“So, this trade has made me very famous, as presently customers still patronize me from Kaduna, Kano and other neighbouring states,” he said.
Explaining the raw materials used for making mortar and pestle, Alhaji Mai Turmi said there are specific woods and specie of trees designed for the trade.
He listed some of them to include Gamji, Kira, Dorawa, Doka, Bawa and the likes, adding that some of the tools used to craft or mould a mortar include axe, scratcher, knife etc.