Zizipho Poswa, from textiles to clay.
- From Textiles to Clay.
- Legacy from her hands.
- Exploring her world and her work.
Zizipho Poswa is an artist whose work cuts through the noise of a world drowning in “content” and her voice and narrative is important now more than ever. With the grandiose, all accessibility of the digital age, everyone can shout their stories 24 hours a day. But not everyone has something important to articulate. Zizipho has chosen to express herself through a craft handed down over millennia. More importantly, she has developed a language of her own and explodes the idea of words and the meanings attached to them, not to mention didactic communication. She effectively is at the centre of creating Culture through clay, existing beyond the lens of electronic devices, but having a life of its own and taking up physical space.
From Textiles to Clay.
Zizipho’s creative journey is an anthropological excavation into her Xhosa heritage as well as an evolution in art making. Mtatha-born, now living and working in Cape Town, Poswa’s academic training is in Textile Design, obtained at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Yet her skills in hand-painting, colour mixing and pattern-making would transcend fabric to the medium of clay. This would become not just her her visual motif, but the building blocks of her own language, wrought into the clay itself.
Legacy from her hands.
Poswa creates large-scale ceramic works inspired by her history, culture and knowledge of the world. Her art-making process uses her textile training to apply clay into a tactile language that tells stories of her world as well as that of black African women. The process is intimate, distilling the power of her ancestors and allowing that to pass through her, ignite her imagination and be rendered through the physicality of her hands. Once cast, it is further purified through glazing and the firing process in a kiln, to reveal a new skin, fortified with meaning.
Exploring her world and her work.
Zizipho is no stranger to cultural and historical discourse. Her early ceramic collections have all been observational perspectives around cultural narratives. Clay has become her lens to further analyse how the world views the traditions of the isiXhosa people, but also how other Xhosa women and men view themselves within their culture. Her deft extrapolations of textile patterns and elevating them to a linguistic format, have allowed her to build conversations and contextualise them in surprising revelations.
A recent body of work, ‘uBuhle-boKhokho’ (‘Beauty of Our Ancestors’), is testament to Poswa’s nuanced and sensitive interogations of South African tribal anthropology. The work exudes depth in a multi-layered conversation about blackness, what African women’s hair represents to them, African femininity through a post-colonial gaze, and the celebration of women who have had a significant impact in Zizipho’s life.
She elevates the symbolism of hair, the strength it represents and merges it with real-life women who embody these elements. For Poswa, this dives into the politics of Black hair, especially into the identity of black women. It also carries its own weight in historical gravitas with black hair meshed into culture and ritual, the sacred and spiritual.
With its legacy of black slaves using their hair to revolt, share messages of hope and even create maps to freedom, much of the art is imbued with self-empowerment and activism. Zozipho articulates black hair as an African woman’s dialogue with the world in a very powerful way. Her creative process is reflected in her adept ability at including different messages into a singular narrative. This positions her “content” with a robustness and solidity both in its form and its cultural significance. Her voice will endure long after the last Tik Tok dance fades into obscurity.
C.S.A.’s monthly cultural portal, The WIRE connects the dots of culture. With concise stories, many with video content, take a premium dive into the world of African entertainment & cultural fluidity. It’s one thing to be hip to what’s happening but it is another to know why.
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