Durban potter Phumlani Nyawo in his studio with some of his work.
Durban potter Phumlani Nyawo in his studio with some of his work.

Top potter passes on heritage in clay

By Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Sep 19, 2020

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Durban - An artist in clay, Phumlani Nyawo, 35, is proud of his heritage and would like to pass on his skills to the next generation.

As a new artist in residence at the Phansi Museum, Nyawo has set up a studio at the museum where, for the next three months, his classes will form part of a series of art and craft workshops by Rotary for a selection of pupils from local schools.

Nyawo spent many years based at the BAT Centre and is known for his hand-crafted and smoke-fired Nguni bulls, for which he won an award at the Innibos National Craft Exhibition.

He has also exhibited with Ceramics South Africa KZN and collaborated with MRP Home, with his work showcased nationally and locally.

Nyawo grew up in Pongola with his mother’s family and from a young age loved to draw in pencil and crayons.

“Every teacher said I must go to art school one day. I came to Durban when I was 18 and did odd jobs. Then in 2005, I went to the BAT Centre where I started classes in fine art.

Durban potter Phumlani Nyawo in his studio with some of his work.

“I chose ceramics because I wanted to make a living out of my art and clay is free. Ink, on the other hand, is very expensive,” he said.

Pottery is a form of ceramics, using only clay, and Nyawo went on to specialise in the art form. When he is working, he loves to listen to music to draw inspiration.

He has also found he loves imparting his skills to young people.

“I believe my ceramics are different and I like sharing my skills with schoolchildren. I’ve found I love teaching and I can see talent. I want to search for artistic talent among young people.

"I really want to pass my knowledge on, so people will still be working with clay in a 100 years and I hope my work will still be there,” he said.

A potter’s piece takes on average four days to complete, from first mixing the clay to the final shine.

After moulding and creating his artwork, the clay is fired and Nyawo does a final polishing with a special stone.

The planned workshops will include pottery, ceramics, leather work and beading, and will be co-ordinated by Nyawo along with John Ramona, Ntuthuko Khuzwayo and Bongani Mhlongo with the museum.

The Phansi Museum, 500 Esther Roberts Road in Glenwood, is open for tours again 9am-3pm Monday to Friday, and 10am-2pm on a Saturday.

Social distancing is required, as well as masks, with sanitisation done and temperatures taken at the door.

The African Art Centre is also open for local art and craft items on sale.

The Independent on Saturday

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