Watch: Chuma Maweni on his ‘Imbizo’ Collection

"I'll look at a beaded Xhosa cloth and extract just one or two elements to use in my patterning."

Watching ceramicist Chuma Maweni at the wheel is to witness an artist totally in sync with his craft. He coaxes the clay into perfectly balanced volumes, cutting crisp lines into its spinning surface to form precise ridges. Complementing Maweni’s instinctive feel for symmetry and shape is his economical approach to pattern and texture. “I’ll look at a beaded Xhosa cloth and extract just one or two elements to use in my patterning,” he says. “I try to think forward instead of just relying on tradition only.”

Maweni’s work for Southern Guild has grown rapidly in scale from vessels to furniture, finding its most ambitious form to date in his Imbizo collection, which won the Design Foundation’s Object That Moves Award in 2018. The series includes stools, plinths, side-tables and large dining tables, the latter combining hand-carved wooden tops and ceramic bases. Every aspect of these pieces is handcrafted, and each piece unique. An “imbizo” is a forum or meeting called by a traditional Xhosa or Zulu leader. Maweni’s installation is a modern-day version; a place for people to gather and exchange ideas over a meal or drink.

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