Whitehot Magazine

Black Bounty: The Art of Zizipho Poswa at Southern Guild Los Angeles

Installation view. Images courtesy of the artist and Southern Guild.

By PETRA MASON April 15, 2024

Zizipho Poswa’s Indyebo yakwaNtu (Black Bounty) is the artist's first Los Angeles solo exhibition showcasing her monumental ceramic and bronze sculptures as the artist continues to flex her isiXhosa heritage and celebrate her African womanhood internationally. Represented by Southern Guild – the foremost platform for contemporary art and design in Africa and now California,  Black Bounty is one of two inaugural shows at Southern Guild’s new gallery space in Los Angeles, including the group show, Mother Tongues. 

Exploring African beautification and ritual, the artworks on view were created during Poswa’s residency at the Center for Contemporary Ceramics at California State University in Long Beach. With these she further marks her arrival in North America at the Guild Group’s new gallery space in Los Angeles.

Over the past few months Poswa has extended not only the scale of her work, but her global reach, and her sculptures can be found in collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and most recently, the Art Institute of Chicago.

Petra Mason spoke to the artist about her practice:

How does traditional isiXhosa culture influence your work?

I was born in the Eastern Cape Province and all my childhood and early adult life activities were highly influenced by isiXhosa culture. This created a strong affinity towards isiXhosa culture in my creative output. The isiXhosa cultural socialisation and orientation has been essential in shaping my world view and informing the fibre of my creativity.

My entire being rotates on the axis of my culture as a Xhosa woman. My socialisation, education and inspiration are highly influenced by my culture, and it gives my work so much meaning. The isiXhosa culture has endowed me with spiritual gifts that manifest in the majestic forms, textures and colours of my work - a strong cultural essence comes clearly through my pieces.

Installation view. Images courtesy of the artist and Southern Guild.

Tell us about your personal journey working with clay and bronze?

I qualified as a surface and textile designer. It was the decision to establish my own company alongside Majolandile (Andile) Dyalvane, whose primary focus is ceramics. I then fell in love with clay and created works that reflected my training as a textile designer. My journey with clay relates to my love for the land and my culture. 

The use of bronze as a material was inspired by my first solo exhibition with Southern Guild in 2021 – iLobola. It was through that experience that I noted that bronze has the durability, texture and aesthetic that best captures the strength and beauty of African women, making it an easy choice when creating my subsequent body of work in 2022, titled uBuhle boKhokho. These monumental bronze sculptures perfectly honour the women in my life.

These mediums (clay and bronze) have been a beautiful language for my work. They capture so well the essence of the ancestral messages I wish to convey.

Clay is so tactile and so primal. How would you describe working with it to a blind person?

Clay is an extension of who we are and by virtue of that, we have a natural resonance to clay. My work also has energy infused in it that communicates in non-visual ways. People who do not have sight of my work can engage with the tactility of the clay – with its forms and textures. The best way to experience clay is to hold it.  To explain clay is to reflect on its properties which are natural elements: soil and water. It is a beautiful fusion of land and water. The creation process for ceramic pieces requires the addition of another element which is fire. 

People who are blind have many of their other senses heightened and this gives them the capacity to engage with ceramics in ways that ultimately enrich the meaning of the work.

Installation view. Images courtesy of the artist and Southern Guild.

If you could choose, where would you want to see one of your clay and bronze sculptures? 

At the moment so much of my work is leaving the country and the continent. I have a yearning to see my work in our own cultural institutions in Africa. I hope that they can develop the means to acquire and display my work.

My dream is to see my work in all major museums on the continent. There are so many young people that I wish could walk into a museum in Kigali, Abuja, Niamey, Cairo, Kinshasa, Bamako, Maseru or any other city in Africa and interact with my work. They can find inspiration that will help them realise their full potential and develop a better appreciation for African art and for our essence of being as Africans.

I dream of a reality where my work can bring healing to people in rural areas far removed from digital technology. People who can walk into the royal houses “komkhulu” and see my work. They can see how culture can evolve to become a source of inspiration, healing and beauty.

What would give me the most delight is to also see my work in my ancestral homeland - to give back to the very people who inspire me to produce the work that I do.

As an established ceramicist, what would you like to see done to support future leaders in the world of ceramics on the African continent?

The best way to support future leaders in ceramics is to ensure that art education is a central part of basic education. My first encounter with art education was at university.  My own progression in the field of art would be vastly different if I had had the opportunity to learn creative skills in primary and secondary school.

My aspiration for the world of ceramics is also to see the African continent being more intentional about advancing the manufacturing capacity for this industry. To ensure that we put in place all the infrastructure needed to enable seamless production, distribution and collection.

I spent some of my time mentoring and training younger people in basic art and ceramics skills to contribute towards the future. I have aspirations to collaborate with corporates to support schools in the rural areas as my own contribution to the world of ceramics.

Black Bounty: The Art of Zizipho Poswa is on view at Southern Guild Los Angeles, 747 N Western Ave, Melrose Hill until 24th April 2024WM

Petra Mason

Cultural historian and vintage photography book author published by Rizzoli New York. Founder Obscure Studio and ArtHit. Whitehot arts and culture contributor since 2016.

Photography by (c) Thekiso Mokhele / Obscure Studio


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