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Sunday, August 7, 2016


(Pot by Jabu Nala)

In celebration of national women’s month, the African Art Centre will hold a group exhibition entitled A Woman’s Touch showcasing finely hand-crafted ceramic pottery produced by Jabu Nala, Bongi Nala and Mabusi Ntuli. This exhibition will not only showcase exquisite handcrafted vessels but also celebrate the advancement of the ceramic pottery tradition and contemporary techniques explored by the exhibitors.

Initially utilised as ‘izinkamba’ (household vessels) for drinking, serving, transporting and brewing sorghum–based beer, the hand-coiled beer pots were not only highly valued by Zulu people but also by other indigenous communities in Southern Africa. The Nala family is internationally renowned for maintaining the traditional practice through three generations.

The late Nesta Nala learnt her skills from her mother Simphiwe, then passed her hand-coiled vessel technique to her daughters Jabu, Thembi and Bongi at their home in Oyaya in the Eshowe district Contemporary young artists continue to marvel at the workmanship and exceptional quality of the Nala ceramic wares skilfully burnished and embellished with ‘amasumpa’ warts.

Jabu and Bongi Nala have nurtured this cultural tradition and have also introduced distinctive individuality to their designs.

Jabulile Nala (1969), now residing in Johannesburg, continues to produce her ceramic ware with natural red and grey clay dug from Oyaya grounds near her home in Eshowe.  Even though this clay has to be ground and sieved prior to being modelled into pots, Jabu enjoys the process and the resulting elasticity of the clay. Over the years, she has pushed boundaries of the ceramic tradition by not merely decorating her pots with incised patterns and ‘amasumpa’ but also exploring various forms and textures on her work. Her special ceramic vessel shapes have featured protruding cylindrical multiple openings, hollow circular openings on pots, flat necked ‘uphiso’ pots and cylindrical vase shapes. Her mastery of ceramic pottery-making skills has been acknowledged locally and internationally by art galleries, private and public collectors. Jabu has recently returned from the successful annual Santa Fe International Folk Art Market in USA, where she has participated every year since 2010. The African Art Centre’s exhibition will celebrate the continuing family legacy and the marriage of traditional and modern contemporary design techniques.

Bongi Nala (1960) is Nesta Nala’s eldest daughter living in Oyaya village in Eshowe. Bongi learnt pottery-making skills from her mother at the age of 12, initially producing pots to sell in her community for domestic purposes. Since she lost her husband, ceramic-making became her only source of income which was used to raise her children. Bongi now not only sells her work in her community but also to tourists visiting the Nala home in Eshowe and at the African Art Centre. She values the ceramic tradition and believes it must be sustained. She has trained her eldest daughter, Phumzile, in pottery-making skills and both mother and daughter often travel together to sell their work. Bongi and Phumzile enjoy making the traditional ‘izinkamba’ shapes in various sizes. They have also both begun exploring unique stylized vase and calabash shaped pots, some with rough textured surfaces. The exhibition will also feature a selection of pots made by Phumzile.

Mabusi (Busisiwe) Ntuli (1981) hails from the KwaMaphumulo area in KwaZulu-Natal. She currently lives in the Illovo district outside Durban and is studying towards a degree in Jewellery Design at the Durban University of Technology. She is thrilled to be sharing a platform with the renowned Nala family who she has always looked up to. It was only when she enrolled at the BAT Centre Visual Art Classes that she had an opportunity to learn ceramic pottery-making skills, taught by Clive Sithole. She states: “My work is greatly inspired by the Nala Family and by Clive Sithole’.

Mabusi’s ceramic vessels are modelled in terracotta, earthenware and white clay and fired in a kiln. Her work displays creative combination of traditional and modern ceramic-making methods. Her pots are moulded into unique ‘ukhamba’ beer pot shapes, sometimes embellished in pierced patterns, further smoke-fired or glazed. “The African Centre is proud to be showcasing this brilliant young talent as proof of the continuing ceramic pottery tradition now combining with modern contemporary ceramic pottery trends,” says Director of the African Art Centre, Magdalene Reddy.

This showcase of work by three women ceramicists who are preserving and expanding on the pottery tradition will open with a special event at the African Art Centre on August 11 featuring a performance by the legendary Latozi Mpahleni, better known as Madosini. Madosini makes and plays the Uhadi (music bow), Umrhubhe (mouth bow) and is also an expert on the Isitolotolo (Jewish harp).

Reddy says: “Madosini is one of South Africa’s living legends and the Centre is delighted that she will share her traditional Xhosa music at the Woman’s Touch opening. It is a proud moment for women artists; let us celebrate the talents, skills and special qualities of our women every day!”

The exhibition will open on August 11 at 17h30 for 18h00 and runs until September 3 at the African Art Centre at 94 Florida Road, Morningside. More information on 031 312 3804/5 or email or visit