Zizipho Poswa is a Cape Town-based ceramicist whose large-scale, collectible work takes inspiration from her own narrative as a Xhosa woman and artist living in contemporary South Africa. Alongside lauded South African ceramicist Andile Dyalvane, she co-founded Imiso Ceramics, whose handmade tableware has earned the studio an international following.
Poswa grew up in the town of Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, a stronghold of Xhosa culture. She was raised by her mother, a teacher, who recognised her creativity from a young age and did everything within her means to support it. She studied surface design, majoring in textiles, at the Port Elizabeth Technikon and draws on this textile knowledge to amalgamate the visual stimuli she encounters in her daily life into a simplified pattern language.
Poswa’s abstract yet tactile hand-pinched bowls, vessels and vases celebrate her love of colour and pattern. Her work for Southern Guild explores her personal experience and heritage in monumental sculptural pieces. Her totemic Umthwalo series is an ode to the load carried by African women and the traditional tasks of gathering wood, collecting water and taking bucket loads of clothing to wash in the river. For the artist, who witnessed these daily rituals as a young girl, this balancing act is analogous to the multiple life-sustaining roles that African women play as they bridge traditional and modern worlds.
The stacked, totemic forms of Umthwalo give way to a monolithic verticality in Ukukhula I and Ukukhula II. This pair of sculptures convey the sense of a growth spurt and plays with the duality of masculine and feminine, aggression and protection. They are indicative of an artist who has come into her own.
Poswa’s work was acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and is in important private collections internationally. Her ceramics were included in Deeper than Text, presented by 1stdibs and the Female Design Council at the 1stdibs Gallery in Manhattan in 2019. She has exhibited at Design Miami, PAD London and The Salon Art + Design in New York, and received the prestigious Fellow Award from Ceramic South Africa. Her works have also been part of exhibitions in Paris, namely Ceramics Now and Exceptions d’Afrique (both 2021).
Poswa’s debut solo, iLobola (2021), 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.