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Friday, August 10, 2012


Jabu Nala

Currently running at the African Art Centre is a new collection of pots by Jabu Nala.

Jabu Nala is the eldest daughter of Nesta Nala and has been pushing boundaries with her recent collections of pots, breaking away from traditional Zulu beer containers into more sculptured forms. Jabu was born in 1969 near Eshowe and was initially taught by her mother and grandmother, Simphiwe.

Jabu continues to confirm her mastery of the medium of clay. Her latest collection of ceramic vessels demonstrates innovative design and form and a fine balance between traditional Zulu and contemporary shapes.

The red and grey clay she uses is hand-dug and ground using a traditional Zulu grinding-stone and then finely sieved through a sieve or a piece of net curtain. The clay is dried and placed in a ten gallon iron drum which contains 50% water and left to mature.

Jabu’s pots are all hand-coiled and smoothed before being burnished with river pebbles. The pots are decorated with incised patterns or added “warts” of clay using an ancient design called “Amansumpa”. These are inserted onto the surface with a clay slip and smoothed into the surface with a river pebble and left to dry naturally.

Before firing, pieces of coal are put into the pots and warmed up to make sure that the pots are completely dry. They are then placed on their sides in a special pattern and covered with dried grass, aloe leaves and wood. The grass is then lit and the aloe leaves catch fire - the firing lasts approximately three hours depending on weather conditions.

After the first firing, the pots are again burnished with a river pebble and oil. A second firing takes place to smoke the pots black. The pots are placed on a metal tripod and turned over the flames to ensure even smoking. When thoroughly blackened, the pots are cooled and rubbed with animal fat and polished to make them shine.

The African Art Centre is situated at 94 Florida Road, Morningside. More information from the Director, Sharon Crampton, or the Development Officer, Nozipho Zulu, on 031 312 3805 or email or visit