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Monday, September 14, 2009


(Pic: A beautifully designed pot by Jabu Nala)

Work of second prize recipient at the Craft Ya Rona 2009 Competition can be seen at African Art Centre.

The work of KZN ceramic artist Jabu Nala can be seen on the exhibition Best Ceramicists in KwaZulu-Natal which honours Clive Sithole and herself for receiving 1st and second prize (respectively) at the "Craft Ya Rona" Competition in 2009 hosted by the Department of Arts and Culture.

Jabu Nala was born to a Nala family in the rural area of Oyaya at Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal. She acquired the Zulu pottery-making skills from her grandmother Simphiwe and her mother Nesta Nala, also internationally renowned Zulu ceramic pot makers. Jabu began with modelling the traditional Zulu pots (Izinkamba) which were characterized by incised geometric designs, lines and relief warts called amasumpa. Her fine ceramic pots have been collected by Johannesburg Art Gallery, Durban Art Gallery as well as various international art institutions.

Jabu has preserved the high quality finish to her ceramic pots which she maintains between the initial and finishing stages of the modelling. She digs her clay from two places near her home, one is red and the other is grey. This clay is left out to dry and then ground with a traditional Zulu grinding-stone. Once ground, the fine clay is sieved through a sieve or a piece of an old curtain. It is then put into the ten gallon drum with 50% water and left to mature into usable clay. The first stage of modelling begins thereafter, Jabu wedges and rolls the clay into balls and then into coils with which she models her pots.

Jabu employs two types of firing once her pots are dry. The first stage is through the dry grass, aloe leaves and wood, a process that lasts for about three hours. The second stage which gives black colour to the pots requires her to place pots on a metal tripod and turn them with a stick to ensure an even smoking.

Confirming her mastery of ceramic pottery making skill, she has recently developed her ceramic vessel shapes further. Her Izinkamba display an additional feature, a short protruding neck, a new feature on the Zulu pots often embellished with incised geometric patterns or amasumpa. In addition, she creates special pots with cut-out circular features, the resultant negative circular spaces on the pot becoming a prominent aspect of the design.

Jabu‘s outstanding innovative design in this exhibition at the African Art Centre is her “multi-necked pot”, their mere form undoubtedly accounting for her renowned status and confirming her unadulterated mastery of ceramic pot making. This new ceramic pot is shaped like an uphiso, its central neck textured with the traditional amasumpa designs and flanked by two smaller smooth necks which compliment the rough texture on other areas of the pot. The perfection and balance of traditional Zulu and stylised modern form of the ‘multi-necked pot’ elevates Jabu to high platform of ceramic pot making.

Her finely finished beer pots burnished to the highest shine are also adorned by the process of firing which adds to the tone of the surface of the pot.

Best Ceramicists in KwaZulu-Natal will be opened officially on September 16 at 18h00 by Paul Mikula of Phansi Museum. The African Art Centre is in Florida Road, phone 031 312 3804.

(See separate article on Clive Sithole)