‘Bold Declarations of Womanhood’ – Art By South Africa’s Zizipho Poswa

“I was raised in a community full of women. My work honours their strength.” says Zizipho Poswa an extraordinary artist, whose Xhosa-inspired ceramics are attracting global interest – deservedly so.

Artist Zizipho Poswa’s totemic ceramic sculptures are bold declarations of African womanhood. A colourist who came to ceramics via textile design, the Cape Town-based artist is inspired by the daily Xhosa rituals she witnessed as a young girl growing up in the Eastern Cape and the life-sustaining roles that Xhosa women play in traditional and contemporary life. 

Zizipho’s first major series for Southern Guild paid tribute to the practice of umthwalo (load), in which rural women carry heavy bundles of wood, buckets of water or parcels on their heads, often walking long distances on foot.

Her more recent Magodi series looks to the sculptural forms of traditional African hairstyles, such as the Bantu knots and dreadlock, and the central role that hair salons play as a meeting place for women. Each work is named after a family member or close friend, giving vivid, physical form to her own support network of sisterhood.

Zizipho’s large-scale ceramics have attracted strong interest from international collectors and can be found in important private and corporate collections in South Africa and around the world.

Exhibited for the first time at the Toyota Woordfees in Stellenbosch in March, Noxolo and Nozibhedlele are currently included in Shaping Things at SMAC Gallery, courtesy of Southern Guild. Running until 10 July, the exhibition explores the developing status of clay and ceramics in contemporary South African art and features work by artists including Frances Goodman, Simphiwe Buthelezi, Georgina Gratrix and Hylton Nel.

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Institutional recognition has come fast; last year her Ukukhula series (meaning “growth”) was acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The pair of sculptures were a gift of the 2019 Decorative Arts and Design Acquisitions Committee, with additional support from Debbie and Mark Attanasio and Allison and Larry Berg.
Southern Guild has presented her work at Design Miami, The Salon Art + Design in New York and PAD London.

 In 2019, she was included in the Female Design Council’s all-women exhibition Deeper Than Text at the 1st dibs gallery in New York City during NYCxDESIGN. 

Shaping Things, installation view. Courtesy of SMAC Gallery.

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