Get creative – do Venda pottery
Story and photos by Louise De Waal
Awestruck. No potter’s wheels, no fancy tools, no kiln, and no commercially produced clay. With incredible pottery skills, turning clay into beautiful, authentic, honest, hand-built Venda pots.
We join four ladies from the Mukhondeni village in Florah Randela’s yard, sitting on pieces of carpet and wearing not so flattering aprons. Florah works the clay a little before putting us to work. The clay has a high silt and fine sand content and is simply collected from the banks of the Tshipise River.
We all have a plastic plate that serves as our potter’s wheel and start with a fat round sausage of clay, slowly working it with our fingers and kidneys into the desired shape. While we create our individual pots, we have the opportunity to chat to these skilled potters.
Esther Nesengani is a woman of few words, but a brilliant potter with quick and precise fingers. She shows us how to decorate our pots with the traditional geometric Venda designs in the distinctive red and black colours by using oxide from Zimbabwe and graphite. I admit, Paul’s is not so traditional…slugs really?
We don’t have time to dry our pots and have them fired, but the ladies demonstrate how their open-air kilns work and burn for up to 24 hours. It is mindboggling how they manage to fire their large pots without breaking every single one.
Florah tells us she had a vision to pass on the skills of traditional Venda pottery making, when she started working with several ladies from the village. She formed a cooperative enabling each individual potter to earn an income from their own creations.
What a wonderful opportunity to meet these resourceful, determined and entrepreneurial women. I am in awe of their talent, creating the most incredible pots with such uncomplicated techniques and they are completely unassuming at the same time.