Zizipho Poswa_Clay Formes_book by Art Formes




b. 1979

vessels that tell stories

fig. zizipho poswa, umthwalo ii (2018)

Zizipho Poswa_Clay Formes_book by Art Formes

Zizipho Poswa is an award-winning artist and hand-coils clay to speak about the role of Xhosa women and traditional symbols within a contemporary landscape. Poswa studied Surface Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Shortly after graduating, she and frequent collaborator Andile Dyalvane opened their independent ceramic studio, Imiso Ceramics, in 2005 in Cape Town. Since then, the studio has grown in ambition and scale, producing boundary-pushing and monumental work. Poswa’s clay is bright and bulbous, forming two-fold objects which pay homage to the act of carrying over. Poswa was a finalist for the Innibos Craft Awards (2019) and her ceramic sculptures can be found in the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Loewe Foundation, in addition to numerous private collections around the world.

zizipho poswa


vessels that tell stories

In Zizipho Poswa’s practice, each vessel tells a story. Coiled up by hand, the story is spun in layers. It is cyclical. It is a story that has already been told. It is a story that will be told again. The colours threaded in those coils are like events strung on a narrative. The base holds something of a prophecy; the crown is a sort of ending. Were we to apply narrative to this process, Poswa’s practice would tell a story that begins with the human and ends with the gods. Human – because its base is small enough to fit on the crown of your head. Divine – because its crown, a pair of brass horns, reaches out to pierce the heavens.

A story told a thousand times becomes tradition. Sometimes, a tradition is a story that does not need to be told. No longer in need of language, it comes embedded, embodied. It can be seen in the way Poswa makes a ceramic vessel. Like a traditional pot, it is hand-coiled and burnished. Often, the vessel is large, sometimes over half a metre tall, a scale that recalls the ukhamba, a pot that can hold twenty litres of beer. Like a traditional vessel, Poswa’s base starts small – small enough to balance on top of your head – expands around the belly, and narrows again at the lip. What distinguishes them as distinctly modern – and distinctly Poswa – is that these vessels are sealed. Atop their heads, crowns: hairstyles, horns, bowls, amadumbe, ikhetshemiya. Rather than contain, they carry. Umthwalo is the practice of carrying a heavy load on one’s head – be it wood, water, or laundry – often across great distances. It refers to both the load carried and the act of carrying it. The strength and the burden. Traditionally, it is women’s practice, something Poswa witnessed as a young girl growing up in the Eastern Cape.

Its smooth surface recalls the skin of the dead, the living, and the as-yet-to-be-born. So that we might run our palm across it and count the hand-slipped lines like days. Indeed, the vessel is not obliged to have a beginning or end. It contains. The vessel keeps all time together, so that all generations are companions, though not without friction.

“These vessels bridge the present and ancestral, heaven and earth, and embody this sense of home. In doing so, they create a home wherever they are.” 

Zizipho Poswa_Clay Formes_book by Art Formes

fig. zizipho poswa, umthwalo i (2018)

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Clay Formes

contemporary clay from south africa

CLAY FORMES is the first of its kind: a survey of contemporary clay from South Africa. This volume, through exquisite photography and literary essays, showcases multiple generations of living South African artists, each innovating the potentialities of clay and ceramics. This publication offers enthusiasts and collectors a glimpse into the studios of thirty important South African artists and opens a window into the complexity of each body of work, revealing the richness of both contemporary clay and ceramic tradition within South African art.

Zizipho Poswa_ceramic artist_art formes

This publication has sought to reflect its subject: to be as fluid as water and as weighty as earth. All this is done in the hopes of leaving behind a fresh approach to this manifold medium, and of presenting to the world the previously unexplored richness of sculptural clay in South Africa.

Dedicated to contemporary clay and ceramics from South Africa. The first publication of its kind, published by Art Formes.