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Q&A: Ceramicist Lungiswa Joe channels her heritage through clay

by | Dec 11, 2020

Lungiswa Joe is a Cape Town ceramicist and the founder of the Inxwala Slow Market. While working at the Craft Design Institute, she was exposed to various creative mediums. It was the ancient medium of clay that captivated her. Lungiswa started her journey with ceramics in 2018. “I wanted to learn something new through which to express myself”. Through clay she channels her heritage and finds simple techniques to express her thoughts.

What inspires your craft?

Clay leads me in an organic way to authentic forms which are unique to the hand that make it. My work is influenced by my Khoisan, Zambian and amaXhosa heritage and celebrates the colours of my people. Textural, earthy, washed, gritty, mud and glaze palettes tend to travel between characteristics of the features of my Khoisan folks and the bead work colours and leather skin garment forms worn over their shoulders.

How have your travels and your heritage influenced your work?

My travels to various local destinations and internationally for work and learning, guide my love for art and craftsmanship in a multitude of spaces. My clay work has been my most recent exploration. It is a culmination of all my experiences which I share together with my heritage, thoughts, ways, and simple techniques through this ancient medium of making.

You’ve said when you ‘throw clay it is quite an intimate experience with the ground’. Would you elaborate on this?

I personally have found that clay pushes me to a place of honesty, fragility, strength… and a memory of some sort. Every time I use it, it  teaches me something! It is more like a teacher of life. Clay is ancient. It’s Mother Earth.

What piece are you most proud of?

One of my first works during lockdown. I named it uMAKHULU.

How does your work describe where you are in life?

Most of my work is from intentional listening which is what I need to decipher uQamatha, ancestral / universal codes felt deeply coming toward me from all directions when making. Currently my collection speaks to my intention to listen with all parts of myself – feet, ears, eyes, mouth, pulsing heart to hands and with the entire vessel of my body, of my being.

From where is your clay sourced?

The studio I work from sources their Clay from CPS and that is the clay I mostly use.

What is the difference between ceramicists and sculptors?

I think sculptors can use any material to create their body of work or art piece. Ceramists’ main material of use is clay, any product made from clay and fired in a kiln achieves a completed form. However, ceramists can also be sculptors. It is a misconception that clay is limited to certain aspects of artistry. Ceramists have expanded boundaries with and for the medium. Clay is an ancient technology and keeper of times, history making and story.

Tell us about the naming of your pieces?

The inspiration is my great grandmother uGogo Mieta Botha’s and grandmother Mary Joe’s Khoi silhouettes passing through my hands to shape clay forms. In search of my lineage and heritage, the women, my matriarchal ancestry, shine through. My work resonates with these women who most likely covered their bodies with Western or European garments. In naming my pieces, I mainly try find a word that would speak of gratitude, so I remember to give thanks for those that came before us. Kai Gangans is a Khoi word Nama meaning Thank you.

What are your prices and where we can buy your work?

My work starts from R450 depending on the size of the work. I work at Imiso Studios,12 Brair Street in Salt River.

Follow Lungiswa on Instagram. 


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