Bamana society is strickly heirachical—only the wives and daughters of blacksmiths (numuw) are authorised to make earthenware pots. This small group of women are known as numumusow (meaning 'blacksmith women') and form part of the larger nya-makaiaw (meaning 'handlers of nyama') group of artisans.
They are called nya-makaiaw because it is believed that they have the technical and spiritual knowledge needed to harness and control natural and supernatural energy (known as nyama), a skill vital in the manipulation and transformation of raw clay into pottery. Because of this skill, the ability to communicate with and mediate with the spiritual world, numumusow take on additional responsibilities including:
One of the vessels made by numumusow are jidagaw water storage jars used to keep water cool and accessible. These jars form part of a young bride's marital possesions—objects that she takes with her into her final marital home (including cooking pots (dagaw), sauce pots (nadagaw), wash-basins (fagaw), and incense burners (wusulanbelew)). Kept outside, typically by a tree in the family's compound, the quality of a jidagaw water jar is said to be an external reflection on its owner.