A master of hand-thrown ceramics, Chuma Maweni’s distinctive approach combines contemporary hand-coiled shapes marked with precisely patterned incisions. From his studio in the Port of Cape Town, he makes exquisitely crafted ceramic vessels and furniture, the latter finding their largest form to date in his sought-after Imbizo series of tables, side-tables and stools.
Maweni was born in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, in 1976. He traces his interest in ceramics to his earliest memories making clay figures of bulls and cows on the muddy riverbanks. Amidst the social upheaval of anti-Apartheid riots in the 1980s, he moved to KwaPayne village, just outside Mthatha in the rural Transkei, so he could focus on his schooling. Maweni graduated with a B-Tech degree in ceramics from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 2002 and spent a few years teaching ceramics to rural women in a poverty alleviation programme run by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
He moved to Cape Town in 2006 to work for the Light From Africa Foundation, which ran the Art in the Forest ceramics studio, gallery and outreach centre. There he mentored and taught other ceramicists while honing his style, garnering local attention for his series of teardrop-shaped vessels and conical pots. Pit-fired with the same techniques used by Nguni tribes before him, their dark, porous surfaces, striking silhouettes and smoky scent established him as a distinctly contemporary ceramicist dedicated to his craft.
Maweni opened his own studio, previously in Woodstock, in 2016 and was selected for A New Wave, Southern Guild’s exhibition that showcased emerging designers, that same year. He has since relocated to a new space in the Port of Cape Town. He has had his work exhibited by Southern Guild in the Christie’s Design Auction, at The Salon Art + Design in New York City and at Design Miami, and also has had work acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
His Imbizo (“gathering” in isiXhosa) table and stool set, made for the 2018 gallery show Extra Ordinary, set in motion a new, more monumental direction for him and saw him apply his intricate carving skills into wood for the first time. It has since spawned an extensive range of stools, which earned Maweni the Object That Moves Award at the 2018 Design Foundation Awards, as well as a 12-seater dining-room table.
Maweni created more than 70 unique pieces from black clay for Xigera Safari Lodge in Botswana – the largest collection of his work anywhere to date. The selection includes stools, pedestals, tables, lamps and coffee sets that are found throughout the lodge, each one completely unique in shape, colour and patterning.