BY Marion Ellis | November 8, 2012
South Africa’s diverse and dynamic pottery
In HAND/EYE Magazine’s 09/South Africa issue, editor-in-chief Keith Recker wrote, “The world of South African ceramics is one of the most dynamic and diverse on the pottery planet. It’s a microcosm for how creativity is reconstructing the country’s social fabric and bringing hope. It’s where some colossally talented artisans, designers and artists’’ are walking a path that links inspiring projects with the spirit of ubuntu - an ancient African concept for humanity to others, encapsulated in the title of Ardmore studio’s long awaited book: We are because of others.”
If you want to get a taste of South Africa‘s blend of cultures, cuisines, heritage and history, and experience ‘’the uniquely engaging sociability of South Africans,” you can join in an upcoming ceramics-focused learning journey—as well as see breathtaking sights around Cape Town and the Winelands, savor a melting pot of flavors, taste award-winning wines in a foodie’s paradise and bask in the summer sun.
The Cape is known for the sophistication of its creative sector and cosmopolitan essence. Cape Town has been selected as The World Design Capital for 2014 and chosen by CNN as one of the World's 10 Most Loved Cities because of its bustling Waterfront set in a working harbor, signature architecture, sunny skies, fabulous shopping and the greatest skyscraper of them all – Table Mountain
The Winelands offer world-class vineyards with historic homesteads, gabled gems and über-chic estates with sculpture filled gardens, where you can explore the picturesque village of Franschhoek at leisure while staying over.
On this journey, you’ll meet doyen ceramicist David Walters who highlights the significance of traditional clay beer pots that have been made by women potters in southern Africa for over 2,000 years and unpacks their ritualistic significance in a master class that interconnects three continents and explores time honored, low tech ceramic traditions – the Oriental Raku glaze, Middle Eastern selective smoke firing and African pit firing techniques – using the symbolic Zulu Ukhamba vessel.
At Light from Africa, a pioneering ceramic hub that raises funds for children with HIV/AIDS you’ll discover how cross-cultural pollination creates dynamic pottery in a workshop with specialist Anthony Shapiro and resident artists.
When hearing from inspiring product developers at the Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI) helmed by social activist and artist Erica Elk, you’ll discover how ceramics are a tool for social regeneration, job creation and community empowerment. While at Zizamele, owner Toni Burton is helping to uplift communities by training previously unemployed and often destitute artists in life skills, business management and ceramic creation (with some products sold by Crate & Barrel).
Over visits to a variety of studios with diverse design perspectives, styles and products—ranging from the functional to the whimsical, you’ll meet Helen Vaughan—whose work captures the landscape; Andile Dyalvane - who has designed a collection for West Elm and reinterprets Xhosa traditions like scarification; while Clementina van der Walt seeks the sacred in the ordinary in her constantly-innovative designs.
There’s a private viewing of some incomparable objects in Iziko museum’s special collection handpicked by Esther Esmyol their visionary curator. Plus the chance to mingle at the Design Indaba Expo--South Africa’s premier destination for the latest and best in home-grown creativity across multiple disciplines. And time with respected craft mavens Cheryl Rumbuk at Kalk Bay Modern gallery and Margi Robertson at Africa Nova, as well as for exploring industrial neighbourhoods where cutting-edge creativity and entrepreneurship flourish.
At a welcome gala in the Castle of Good Hope, the oldest surviving building in South Africa, you’ll be able to trace the history of the country through a display of indigenous ceramics from the earliest times onwards in an exhibit called Fired, and be introduced to vibrant local potters’ handiwork through an installation titled 101 Place Settings, on display in the Banqueting Hall, courtesy Iziko museum.
When you take part in World Cups, an exhibition where your creative work will be shown alongside pieces by African ceramists, a portion of the exhibition and tour proceeds will be donated to an Emerging Potters Fund to help enable the next generation of local ceramicists, which will be managed by the Cape Craft & Design Institute
For more information on the Ceramics Safari visit www.capeinsights.com. The dates are 25 February - 07 March 2013, the price is approx US$5,700 (ZAR49,600 p/p) with virtually everything included.
This tour is managed by Cape Insights a boutique tour operator that specializes in artistic, cultural and historic travel for small groups.
Owner Marion Ellis operated a highly successful craft art-focussed tour for the Museum of Arts & Design, New York and will be co facilitating the program with Terrice Bassler, an American potter - see http://potterywithpurpose.com/ who worked alongside education changemakers in Cape Town following the end of apartheid - see http://terricebassler.com/about-terrice/