Zizipho Poswa is a Cape Town-based ceramic artist whose large-scale, hand-coiled sculptures are bold declarations of African womanhood. She is inspired by the daily Xhosa rituals she witnessed as a young girl growing up in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa and the life-sustaining roles that Xhosa women play in traditional and contemporary life.
Born in 1979 in the town of Mthatha, Poswa studied surface design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She draws on this knowledge to amalgamate the visual stimuli she encounters in her daily life into a simplified pattern language. In 2005, she and fellow ceramicist Andile Dyalvane opened their studio, Imiso (meaning “tomorrow”) Ceramics.
Poswa’s work for Southern Guild explores her personal experience and heritage in monumental sculptural pieces. Her first major series paid tribute to the practice of umthwalo (load), in which rural women carry heavy bundles of wood, buckets of water or parcels on their heads, often walking long distances on foot. Her second series, Magodi, looked to the sculptural forms of traditional African hairstyles, such as the Bantu knot and dreadlock, and the central role that hair salons play as a meeting place for women. Each work is named after a family member or close friend, giving vivid, physical form to the artist’s own support network.
Poswa’s debut solo, iLobola, comprised 12 iconic sculptures made from hand-coiled clay combined with cast bronze for the first time. iLobola pays homage to the spiritual offering at the heart of the ancient African custom of lobola, or bride-wealth – the cow – as well as the role the practice plays in building relations between the two families. Like some of Poswa’s earlier works, this series straddles figuration and abstraction, employing an intuitive vocabulary of shape, colour and texture.
Her ceramics have attracted strong interest from international collectors and can be found in important private and corporate collections in South Africa and around the world. Poswa’s work has been acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Philadelphia Museum of Art and Metropolitan Museum in New York. She has exhibited her work in Deeper Than Text in New York City (2019), Exceptions d’Afrique in Paris (2021) and Ceramics Now, also in Paris (2021). Southern Guild has presented her work at Design Miami/, The Salon Art + Design in New York and PAD London.