African pottery is characterized by an eloquence of form and a
finesse of finish that one does not generally expect in a vessel of utility. This
is precisely the point, since very few of these pots will ever be used for
anything other than contemplation of their virtues.
But one cannot separate their modernity from their past, their very existence is based upon the survival of centuries of production, experimentation and refinement of their craft.
There are many practicing
ceramic artists and the following are but a mere sample of the breadth and
depth of contemporary potters practicing their craft on the continent.
Drawn to her innovative use of one of the oldest materials on earth, one can only admire the compelling work of this Kenyan-born, ceramic sculptor. Born in 1950 in Kenya, she was educated there and in India and currently resides in Britain.
Her prowess as a potter who consistently breaks new ground is uncontested.
Her pieces may resemble containers, but none are meant to be used as such. Taking on their own fluid appearance, they appear to have slipped and slid and it feels their shape is not totally within Odundo's control.
The decoration, however, and the technical processes are tightly controlled by the artist who uses traditional coiling techniques and a series of oxidised and low-oxidised firing atmospheres to achieve different effects.
Her work reflects a unique insight into the trans cultural roles a pot can play and the meaning, both secular and scared, that a vessel can hold. In much of Africa, ceramic craft is associated with female creativity and the anthromorphic references to the female body in her pieces reflect that ritual.
we can specifically recognize this in her work, she has studied many other
indigenous pottery techniques in other environments making her art uniquely
contemporary and worldly.
Born in 1978 in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, Majolandile graduated Cum Laude in Ceramic Design in 2003 at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. He stays true to his roots in using scarification as a technique just like the Xhosa cultural practice of ukuqatshulwa - body scarification.
His work is elemental and his colour usage often symbolic, also reflecting his cultural traditions.
This ceramic artist has not looked back since, making waves as far afield as Denmark, Taipei, California, France and New York City. A co-founder of Imiso Ceramics in Cape Town, SA he has gone from strength to strength in recent years with exhibitions in the UK and the USA and his work being collected worldwide.
His vessels here seem to have a brutal quality that is reminiscent of Picasso.
He has moved beyond surface decoration to capturing the 3D form and angular, jagged contours of the Master in his own outsized, sculptural vessels.
Turning to his own heritage again, Dyalvane created a collection of works named iThongo. Described by the artist as an ancestral dreamscape, this exhibition of 18 terra-cotta chairs and stools has been shown first in his home territory of the Eastern Cape, then in Cape Town at Southern Guild and most recently in New York at the Friedman Benda Gallery (Spring 2021).
A powerful cultural interpretation, the stools and chairs take inspiration from both collective and personal memories and from African artefacts.
They are low, close to the ground.. revered as an ancient portal for ancestral communion and designed to be arranged in a circle around a fire hearth and herbal offerings.
Created in 2020, each work is the embodiment of an imagined symbol. The symbols started as drawings and finally took shape in clay. The symbols or part of them are inscribed in the chairs themselves. Dyalvane created close to 200 symbols to denote important words in Xhosa life, such as igubu (drum) and izilo (totem animals).
Garrett was born in the Eastern Cape, South Africa and his work is influenced by a fascination with both the pre-historic vessels from Europe and India and from the deep cultural heritage of the place of his birth.
He uses a pinch and coil technique and has a highly burnished finish to his vessels. Sometimes he uses a shell with a serrated edge to create textures on his vessels.
His imagery has either botanical or geometric and abstract references and reflect the age old black-on-terracotta firing effects of southern African Zulu, Sotho and Venda potters who Garrett has a strong regard for.
Another South African family has 4 generations and 18 practicing potters amongst them!
The Magwaza Family from the Tugela River region of Kwazulu Natal has a rich tradition of making Zulu pots and they have perfected the art of designing with amasumpa, the little pellets that mark out the design on the pot. Sometimes these small 'warts' are added to the surface and sometimes they are pushed out from inside.
Ranti Bam was born in Nigeria in 1982, moving to London with her parents when she was a child. This exceptional ceramicist creates sculptural vessels that push terracotta to its limits.
Pursuing a path in Fine Arts she began with a BA, followed by an MA at the Sir John Cass School, London. While she was there she explored the conceptual idea of humans being inseparable from our environments and used clay to demonstrate this. She eventually found her oeuvre with a ceramic degree course at the renowned City Lit in London.
Finding her originality in abstract vessels, she constructs them by collaging slabs together to build organic forms. These are enhanced with considerable use of slips and stains but are left earthy and unglazed. Fired at extreme temperatures she embraces the process, pushing the boundaries of this material and experimenting all along the way to the finished piece.
Ranti delights in traveling and sharing her knowledge in interactive sessions. She has held workshops in Europe and in Africa; Zimbabwe and Kenya have benefitted from her experience. She has maintained a consistent and dedicated practice that has allowed her to partake in many venues and garner a strong following.