New exhibition at the African Art Centre showcases KZN potters

THE beautiful hand-crafted ceramic pottery of Jabu Nala, Bongi Nala-Mahlaba, Witty Nyide, Busisiwe Ntuli and Phumzile Mahlaba will be on show at the African Art Centre in Durban this month.

‘A Women’s Touch’ provides an insight into what was once part and parcel of a Zulu woman’s livelihood.

Made from clay and fired in a kiln, clay vessels were used for drinking, serving, transporting and brewing sorghum beer. The hand-coiled pots were highly valued and part of important community ceremonies.

Continuing the renowned Nala tradition, Jabu and Bongi Nala’s ceramic ware is made using the natural red and grey clay dug from the Oyaya grounds, near their home in Eshowe.

Over the years, Jabu has pushed the boundaries of the ceramic tradition by decorating her pots with incised patterns and ‘amasumpa’, as well as various forms and textures.

Her special shapes include hollow circular openings on pots, flat necked ‘uphiso’ pots and cylindrical vases.

Jabu, who recently returned from the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market in the United States, is considered a master potter in KZN and her work is in demand both locally and internationally.

Bongi Nala began producing pots to sell in her community for domestic purposes, but, after losing her husband, used her skills to create a source of income to raise her children.

She values the ceramic tradition and has trained her eldest daughter, Phumzile, in pottery-making skills. The two women enjoy making traditional ‘izinkamba’ shapes in various sizes and have also begun exploring stylised vase and calabash shaped pots, some with rough textured surfaces.

Mabusi (Busisiwe) Ntuli, from the KwaMaphumulo area in KwaZulu-Natal, is currently studying jewellery design at the Durban University of Technology.

Thrilled to be sharing a platform with the Nala family, she began learning ceramic pottery making at the BAT Centre, where she was taught by master cratsman, Clive Sithole.

Her vessels are modelled in terracotta, earthenware and white clay and fired in a kiln. They display a creative combination of traditional and modern ceramic-making methods and are moulded into unique ‘ukhamba’ beer pot shapes, sometimes embellished in pierced patterns.

Also on show will be works by Witty Nyide, who has taken this traditional art form and re-conceptulalised it.

The exhibition will run until September 16. Inquiries: 031 312 3804/5 or email africanartcentre@afri-art.co.za.

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