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Artist Profile: Thembi Nala

Located in the town of Eshowe deep in Thukela valley, in a remote part of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, the Nala legacy began more than 75 years ago, with Ntobi Khumalo, who taught her daughter, Siphiwe, the fine art of pot making. These pots were made for local use in the surrounding villages. This knowledge was then passed on from Siphiwe to her daughter Nesta Nala, who at the tender age of twelve first learned how to hand coil, burnish and fire the clays dug from the surrounding area.

Most Zulu pots are blackened after the firing, this is largely for ritualistic purposes as the ancestors hide in dark, shady places. In time, through daily use, the pots develop a warm, brown, glossy patina characteristic of Zulu pots. Traditionally, three sizes were most common: the large Imbiza pot was used for brewing, the Ukhamba pot used for serving and the Umancishana pot size was used for cooking meat, storing water and grain and for drinking sour milk.

These beautiful pieces by the award-winning Nala family of Eshowe, continue to be crafted using techniques passed down through the generations. Their unique one-of-a-kind high quality crafts reside in many South African public and private collections, and are highly sought after by international collectors.