/ 19 July 2013

Inspired by the ‘hand of God’

Ceramist Nic Sithole at work in his studio in Orange Grove.
Ceramist Nic Sithole at work in his studio in Orange Grove.(Johann Barnard)

It dominates the room, not only by virtue of its physical size, but it has a strong presence, yet imbued with a motherly nature.

“It was inspired by women,” he says. “Sometimes when you are making something, along the way it can show you the direction and you just follow.

“They call it the hand of God, which is something that happens that puts its own stamp on the vase. So you just go with that.”

In creating this piece, that stands easily a metre tall, Sithole says part of the creative flow involved a slight deviation from his usual approach.

A mark of his work is the calabash-inspired African pots and vases decorated in various patterns, mixed with highly burnished finishes that bring out the rich brown colour in the clay.

Sithole has more than 30 years’ experience as a ceramicist, but has been creating work under his own name since 2007.

Apart from running his studio in Orange Grove, he often collaborates with other ceramic artists and has had his work featured in numerous solo exhibitions and collections, notably the Corobrick Collection in Pretoria and the Nelson Mandela Art Gallery in Port Elizabeth.

For the Tambo project Sithole says he incorporated new decorations and textures that reflect the essence of women.

This was done by not only using a greater variety of decorations, but also by treating them differently to produce a more natural, earthy finish.

Sithole says that although he never met Adelaide Tambo he knew of her by reputation and the role she played in the struggle, particularly as a strong female figure in the country’s troubled past.

“It’s like when you are in the rural areas where I grew up. There are certain women who have that power and every child in that area respects her because she is a mother figure for everyone,” he says.

He met Tselane Tambo last year when she was introduced to his work and was delighted when she asked him to be part of the Tambo project.

“It is a great pleasure for me to be involved in such a project,” he says.

“I didn’t get a chance to meet her personally, and so it’s like having a piece of her and being closer to her. She was a wonderful woman and it’s an honour for me as an artist to be involved.”