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Saturday, December 5, 2009


(Pic: Clive Sithole

KZN ceramist takes home top honours at the Department of Arts and Culture Craft Awards 2009

Clive Sithole from KwaZulu-Natal has been crowned the overall winner of the Department of Arts and Culture’s (DAC) Craft Awards 2009 in the Ceramics category for his innovative and beautifully crafted burnished clay vessel. As the overall winner, Sithole takes home R10,000 and a new-found platform to showcase his clay designs.

“It is a great honour to be recognised for my work. Throughout my career I have entered competitions but winning the Craft Awards 2009 is a wonderful achievement and a platform to showcase my work to exhibitors across the country,” he says. He says there is a need for more competitions such as the Craft Awards of the DAC that honour and recognise ceramics as an art form and ensures that publicity of this art form is taken to a higher level. He indicated that he would be putting down a deposit on a house with his winnings and is very excited to become a proud first time house owner.

Sithole began his creative career in the world of fashion as a fashion designer. His mother was a seamstress and he learnt to design and make clothes with her. After school, he attended fashion design college where he was recognised for his natural creative talents and awarded a bursary to study in London. During his time in London, he designed and made clothes for a number of celebrities, but the stress of the fashion world left him uninspired and he returned to South Africa.

While living in Durban he visited the Bat Centre and was mesmerised by the brightly coloured walls, as well as the shops and galleries selling original craft and art from all over the country. Fate led him to meet Cara Walters who took him on in the studio of the Babumbi Clay Project. It was here that his love for clay flourished and he learnt through the expert advice of Walters, the various production techniques and the use of colour on clay.

He began moulding and painting cats mugs and tribal bisque-ware before moving onto brightly coloured sculptural objects. He then tried his hand at slab-built teapots and jugs. He then met well-known Nesta Nala, an expert in coiled and pit-fired pots. She taught Sithole how to coil pots and to burnish them to a high gloss using a smooth stone. She also showed him the traditional techniques of open pit firing. Over the years, he has steadily built up his ceramic career, taking part in a number of competitions and exhibitions. He is constantly keeping abreast with the latest innovations in ceramics both locally and internationally.

His work has developed a new sense of balance, taking reference from metal containers with strong angular forms and sculptural structures that refer to the headrest found throughout Southern Africa. His design for the Craft Awards 2009 entitled Transformation, was influenced by a number of African artefacts and fired in a traditional pit kiln.

Sithole says the greatest moment in his career was meeting his mentor Kenyan-born British ceramist, Magdalene Odundo. She visited Sithole’s studio at Mandeni farm and together they fired pots, exchanged techniques ad forged a lasting friendship. She encouraged Sithole to study and with the assistance of friends and colleagues, he completed his post graduate diploma cum laude at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.