South African ceramic vessels – a rich tradition from the earth
SA Ceramic Vessels Self-adhesive booklets:
Stamp issue date: 13 November 2014
Photographer: Sascha Lipka
Philatelic artist: Rachel-Mari Ackermann
Stamp size: 23.68 x 30.225mm
Booklet size: 60 x 150mm (flat)
Perforation Gauge: N/A (simulation only)
Paper: Avery Dennison B100 PS1 gloss back adhesive, 210gsm
Gum: PS1 self adhesive
Print quantity: 250 000 booklets
Printing process: Offset Lithography
Printed by: Southern Colour Security Print, New Zealand
For thousands of years, dating far back into pre-historic times, pottery has played a significant role in human development. In more recent years, it has become a fine art form with talented ceramicists creating highly sought after and collectable works of art that are exhibited in homes, offices and galleries around the world. With this set of ten postage stamps and two commemorative envelopes, the South African Post Office highlights a selection of South Africa’s finest ceramic vessels from pre-colonial to contemporary times.
In the archaeological record two different traditions of pre-colonial pottery are known in southern Africa, both dating back to at least 2 000 years ago. One is associated with the migration of Khoekhoe herders, while the other marks the arrival of African farmers in the eastern part of South Africa.
Generations of potters continued the tradition of making fired clay vessels for domestic and ceremonial purposes. African women were traditionally specialists in pottery, but African men have learnt this skill and made it their own. Creating ceramics is thus no longer a gendered activity. Ceramic skills are also still being passed down in families as in days past, ensuring that the tradition stays alive.
South African ceramicists today are working across the full spectrum with earthenware, stoneware and porcelain clays; different firing techniques; a wide range of glazes, slips and many other decorative options - in order to create works for function or as a means of expression. Contemporary South African ceramics are eclectic in style, finding inspiration in a wide range of historical and modern sources.
This set of stamps, illustrated with photographs by Sascha Lipka, will be issued on 13 November 2014. They feature the following ceramics, held in the collections of Iziko Museums of South Africa, Cape Town:
This vessel dates from the pre-colonial period and was created by a Khoekhoe woman for domestic use. It has perforated lugs on the shoulder through which handles could be attached for carrying. The vessel was found in the Mossel Bay area and is similar to the type of indigenous pottery that was still being made in the south-western Cape when the Dutch colonists arrived during the mid-17th century.
The ukhamba is a traditional beer drinking vessel from the KwaZulu-Natal area. This one dates back to 1965, made by an unnamed artist in the Melmoth area. The outer surface of the vessel was burnished and decorated with applied raised designs or amasumpa, giving vessels such as these a distinctive appearance and alluding to a style of body patterning.
A serving vessel for beer made by an unnamed artist in the Mashishing (Lydenburg) area of Mpumalanga. The vessel dates back to 1946 and has a burnished ochre outer surface decorated with arrows and zigzag motifs in graphite.
A stoneware vessel created in about 1972 by Ephraim Ziqubu (1948 - ) at the ELC (Evangelical Lutheran Church) Art and Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift in KwaZulu-Natal. It was slip-painted and decorated with carved motifs. Rorke's Drift ceramics were not only influenced by indigenous Zulu and Sotho traditions but also by 20th century modernist Scandinavian graphic design through various teachers associated with the Centre.
An earthenware vessel created in 1996 by Rebecca Matibe (1936 - ) from Mufulwe in Limpopo. The burnished outer surface was covered in ochre and decorated with bold geometrical designs in graphite.
An earthenware vessel created in 2008 by Clive Sithole (1971 - ). Sithole’s work is influenced by traditional Zulu pottery forms, yet it also references international ceramic traditions. He often uses cattle as a theme, as is evident here in the form of sculpted applied decorations.
An earthenware vessel titled Urn for Colonial Ashes, created in 1991 by Clementina van der Walt (1952 - ). The vessel subtly references social and political conflict in South Africa by way of a collage of applied images, juxtaposed with bright on-glaze painted African designs. The angular shape of the vessel conveys a sense of disjuncture, loss and threat.
A stoneware vessel titled Views from the Studio, created in 2011 by Andile Dyalvane (1978 - ). It features incised and vividly coloured imagery of social and cultural life through motifs of cattle and music making, in combination with modern views of urban Cape Town. The incised clay surface resembles body scarification.
A stoneware ceramic vessel made by Hyme Rabinowitz (1920 - 2009) in 1987 in Cape Town. Recognised as one of South Africa’s master potters, Rabinowitz was one of the first in the country to work in the Anglo-Oriental ceramic tradition, a tradition marked by the use of dark or neutral glazes with subtle decoration.
A decorative earthenware vessel sculpted in 2005 by Mondli Obed Mthandeni Mkhize (1981 - ) and painted by Matrinah Ntombenhle Xaba (1970 - ) at the Ardmore Ceramic Art studio in KwaZulu-Natal. Ardmore’s unique forms are intricately decorated featuring brightly coloured flora and animal motifs. Ardmore is the largest pottery studio in South Africa, producing work which combines European and African ceramic traditions. Stamp booklet cover:
This earthenware mvuvhelo or traditional beer vessel with spouts, dates back to 1940 and was made by an unnamed artist in the Thohoyandou area of Limpopo. The outer surface of the vessel is coloured with graphite and ochre.
Commemorative envelope 1: These iingqayi or traditional beer vessels were made by an unnamed artist in 1932 in the Flagstaff area of the Eastern Cape. The vessels were decorated with a pattern of incised lines.
Commemorative envelope 2: A decorative ceramic vessel created in 2008 by Sisanda Mbana at Zizamele Ceramics in Cape Town. These vessels have become synonymous with Zizamele and are called Bambanani bowls. They are also known as Friendship or Ubuntu bowls, showing women holding hands, illustrating their support of each other.
Acknowledgement: Esther Esmyol, Curator: Social History Collections, Iziko Museums of South Africa.