The work and creativity of Zizipho Poswa is celebrated through a solo exhibition and film by South African gallery Southern Guild. The Cape Town-based ceramicist has long paid tribute to African womanhood through her large-scale ceramic pieces, and with iLobola the artist and designer delves deeper into Xhosa traditions.

Watch: Zizipho Poswa’s iLobola

The new film accompanying Poswa’s first solo exhibition celebrates the inspiration behind the iLobola series, a collection of ceramic and bronze pieces referencing the rituals of lobola, or bride-wealth. The tradition, Poswa explains, is based on the symbolic value that cattle carry in Xhosa culture, offered as a form of payment to the bride’s family after a process of negotiation. This practice, observes Poswa, is crucial for ‘ukwakhiwa kobuhlobo’, the building of relations between the two families.

The raw vessels from the iLobola collection

The collection comprises 12 large-scale sculptures, each representing a different element, or role-playing aspect of the lobola process. The vessels’ textured and colourful anthropomorphic forms are topped by a pair of horns, referencing the cattle symbolism.

‘There are many things you can call me,’ recites Poswa in the video. ‘I’m an artist, a businesswoman, a breadwinner, I am a mother, a daughter, a sister and a survivor. My inspiration comes from my culture, and from the path I walked as a woman. I am the woman I am because of my heritage. I stand in tribute to the other women who have shared the load. So working with clay is like a dance, it will follow if you lead it. But once it goes in the kiln, anything can happen. It’s like a grown up child: you have to let go. I celebrate my heritage, and I forge my own way: my work is an act of intention, and this is what must be known about African women.’ §