Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Art History, University of North Carolina / Greensboro

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2005
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Indiana University / Bloomington
Potters in the Marketplace: South African Ceramic Urbanization, 1910s to the Present

Beginning with Durban's municipal beer-monopoly in 1916, segregationist migrant labor policies attempted to ban women's beer brewing and sales in cities. As beer-halls were constructed as legal venues for beer consumption, Shebeens (illegal beer establishments) became sites of community gatherings and political activism. Segregationist legislation and police raids on shebeens marginalized the ceramic medium from urban areas as tin and plastic containers slowly usurped the use of ceramic vessels. Yet, izinkamba, ceramic beer pots, had symbolized the communal and spiritual qualities of beer consumption. I argue that the urban exclusion of ceramics created a political and economic incentive for potters to sell to collectors. The shrinking domestic market and the appeal of izinkamba as items of spiritual significance in Zulu life spurred on nascent ethnographic collections of Zulu ceramic pots. In today's ceramic marketplace, South African artists use the history of Zulu ceramics to promote their work in the global art market. I have selected three potting groups to highlight the heterogeneous nature of the Zulu-speaking ceramic community- a commercially successful urban workshop, two rural potting families, and members of the younger urban generation of ceramic artists. I suggest that, depending upon their socio-economic background, contemporary ceramic artists conceptualize Zulu ceramic history as a fine art, a spiritual tradition, or specifically women's work. Using life-histories I will document how gender norms, generational divisions, and educational cohorts encourage different strategies for economic and aesthetic success within diversifying local and global ceramic art markets.