Bold and emblazoned with character, the ceramic work of Madoda Fani carries a dramatically unique sensibility. Inspired by his African heritage, Fani makes hand-coiled, burnished and smoke-fired pieces that are a contemporary evolution of the traditional ceramics indigenous to Southern Africa.
Born in 1975, he grew up in Gugulethu township in Cape Town and discovered his love of clay as a fine art student at Sivuyile College. He worked as a ceramic painter in various pottery studios, gradually developing his own pieces and style. In 2000, his work was selected for the Salon Internationale de l’Artisanat de Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. There he met the ceramicist Simon Masilo, who introduced him to smoke-firing. In 2009, he moved to Johannesburg and began to deepen his craft at the Kim Sacks School of Ceramics. He learned how to burnish clay with a stone from Jabu Nala, the daughter of legendary Zulu beer-pot maker Nesta Nala, and mastered smoke-firing techniques under the guidance of Nic Sithole.
Although he uses traditional techniques, Fani’s curvaceous, coiled forms and hand-carved embellishments are entirely distinct. He works on a large scale, building organic-shaped vessels whose smooth surfaces are punctuated by intricate, repetitive patterns that give them a scaled, insect-like appearance. His 2021 collection of carved ceramics titled iQweqwe, saw his patterned incisions become an all-encompassing ‘skin’ in this series of 12 hand-coiled works. The isiXhosa title can be translated as “crust” but here refers to insect exoskeletons, a central fascination for Fani.
He has exhibited with Southern Guild at Design Miami and The Salon Art + Design, and as part of the Christie’s London annual design auction. Fani has joined residency programmes in Argentina (2009) and France (2013), received first prize at the 2016 Ceramics Southern Africa Exhibition as well as the Ndebele Milling & Mining Premier Award at the 2015 G&W Mineral Resources Ceramics SA Gauteng Regional Exhibition. His work with Southern Guild has also seen him branch out into clay furniture and bronze sculpture.
In 2021, the Philadelphia Museum of Art acquired one of Fani’s functional ceramic pieces, iTafile III.