Anatomy of a pottery bonfiring in the Port St Johns region, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Authors

  • J. Steele Walter Sisulu University

Abstract

This paper seeks to document and contexualise the unique bonfiring methods of octogenarian potter Alice Gqa Nongebeza, who works from her homestead at Nkonxeni village in the Tombo area near Port St Johns. Her firing technique is compared with those of fellow local potters Debora Nomathamsanqa Ntloya and Nontwazana Dunjana. These three Mpondo potters, and their understudies, create ceramic utilityware and other items for a mainly local market that sometimes also appeals to collectors and tourists. Although they are aware of each other, they use their own clay sources and clayworking methods, and have evolved very different firing techniques. This paper, with reference also to potters in KwaZulu-Natal, shows that Nongebeza, in particular, has developed a rare approach to firing, and calls for the inclusion of her type of firing technique in African firing lexicons. It also calls for greater attention to sequential firing detail, as practised by individual potters, in forthcoming reports that add to knowledge about zero-electricity-usage ceramics production in southern African and elsewhere.

Published

2021-02-04

How to Cite

Steele, J. (2021). Anatomy of a pottery bonfiring in the Port St Johns region, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Southern African Humanities, 24, 121–42. Retrieved from https://sahumanities.org/index.php/sah/article/view/8

Issue

Section

Articles