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Sunday, August 13, 2017


(Work by Jabu Nala)

The African Art Centre will present A Women’s Touch pottery exhibition in commemoration with national women’s month. This exhibition celebrates five extraordinary women in art, showcasing hand-crafted ceramic pottery; Jabu Nala, Bongi Nala-Mahlaba, Witty Nyide, Busisiwe Ntuli and Phumzile Mahlaba.

In 2016, the African Centre presented its first edition of A Women’s Touch providing an insight into what historically was part of a Zulu woman’s livelihood. Made from clay and fired in a kiln, these vessels originated as beer pots utilised for drinking, serving, transporting and brewing sorghum–based beer. The hand-coiled beer pots were not only highly valued by Zulu people but were part of important community ceremonies. 

Continuing the renowned Nala tradition, Jabu and Bongi Nala will present their ceramic ware with natural red and grey clay dug from Oyaya grounds near their home in Eshowe. Over the years, Jabu has pushed boundaries of the ceramic tradition by not only merely decorating her pots with incised patterns and ‘amasumpa’ but also explored 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 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.

Bongi Nala began 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. Now Bongi not only sells her work in her community but also to tourists visiting the Nala home in Eshowe and at the African Art Centre. Bongi 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 stylised 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 hails from the KwaMaphumulo area in KwaZulu-Natal. She is currently studying towards a degree in Jewellery Design at the Durban University of Technology. Mabusi 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. In her own words, she states that “My work is greatly inspired by the Nala Family and by Clive Sithole”. Her ceramic vessels are modelled in terracotta, earthenware and white clay and fired in a kiln. Her work displays a 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.

This year, whilst still keeping the pots as a focal point of the exhibition, the Centre has invited a young woman who has taken this traditional art-from and re-conceptualised it into a contemporary exposition. Witty Nyide works within mainly the scope of art education, in both formal and informal contexts, including museum environments. Most recently, she has taught the visual art component of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Bachelor of Education programme and the painting module at the UKZN’s Centre for Visual Art. Her research, education and community work extends to jobs with the Durban Art Gallery and Caversham Centre for Artists and Writers. In 2007 and 2008, Witty taught Drawing and Painting at the African Art Centre’s Velobala Fine art classes, which is also where she started her own art development when she joined the class in 2003. Witty presented papers at conferences such as the South African Visual Arts Historians Conference 2016 and Art and Social Justice Conference 2010 and exhibited at galleries both locally and internationally.

A Women’s Touch will open on August 17 2017 at 17h30 for 18h00 and runs until September 16 2017. The African Art Centre is at 94 Florida Road, Morningside. More information on 031 303 4634 or email