Magwaza pots…unique and world famous

2018-07-25 06:00
Buzephi Magwaza, fourth generation potter in her family, takes great care to make each piece perfect and unique.

Buzephi Magwaza, fourth generation potter in her family, takes great care to make each piece perfect and unique.

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FROM Nkandla, to homes and galleries all over the world, pots made by the incredibly talented Magwaza family members are on display.

Buzephi Magwaza, who heads the Magwaza family, at Nkandla, is the fourth generation of potters (as far as can be safely recorded).

Buzephi recalls as a little girl, watching her great grandmother crafting pots in the same way as she does — and she is now the great grandmother who is watched by the younger ones as she crafts her beautiful pieces.

It is customary for Zulu potters to start their craft by producing beer pots which were used in traditional ceremonies.

The main purpose of the pots was to brew, store and serve beer; or to store milk and sour milk.

The patterns on the pots are of no specific significance, although in recent times it has become fashionable to etch people’s names and significant dates onto the pots.

More recently, as the demands of the market, have grown far beyond the immediate family and community, the shape and design of the pots and the patterns have evolved into a host of fabulous combinations of pieces of unique art.

Many of the procedures however, have not changed over the four generations.

The process of harvesting the clay, preparing it for use and forming, drying, decorating, firing and polishing the pots is time-consuming and takes an enormous amount of dedication and skill.

Clay is collected from a nearby river bed, then broken up into small pieces using stones or a hammer.

These pieces are then ground on a stone, similar to those used for grinding maize in the traditional way.

After the clay has been finely ground to look like fine soil, it is passed through a sieve to eliminate any impurities, which would cause the finished article to burst, when exposed to heat.

Once the clay has been reduced to pure fine grains of soil, water is added to return it to malleable clay, which is then stored in air-tight bags until it is removed to be molded into a piece of pottery.

The technique used by the Magwazas is known as coiling, commonly used in hand-thrown pottery.

The pots are burnished in an open fire, usually using dried aloe leaves to fuel the fire.

Thereafter, the clay pots are scoured with a stone, to produce a smooth surface and then finally the pot is polished with boot polish to give it a beautiful black or brown shine.

Magwaza family members will be demonstrating, displaying and selling their unique and special talents at a stall at the Greytown Creative Fair at Greytown Museum this Sunday.

Report: Stella Cockburn

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