The village of Ngobozana (population approx. 750) in South Africa’s Eastern Cape is an unlikely place to debut a new collection of ceramic works by a globally celebrated artist. But for ceramic artist Andile Dyalvane, it holds a rich store of cultural memory – the lifeblood of his artistic practice as one of Africa’s most accomplished ceramicists.
A new short documentary follows the making of iThongo, Dyalvane‘s latest collection, co-presented by Southern Guild (Cape Town) and Friedman Benda (New York) galleries. The collection of ceramic chairs was first showcased in its entirety at Ngobozana to honour his ancestors and the community that raised him.
Dyalvane grew up in Ngobozana, it is a place that moulded him, where he first heard the whispers of his calling as an artist and a custodian of his Xhosa heritage. He has travelled the globe for residencies and exhibitions, but Ngobozana is where he feels most at home. The iThongo seats find a functional and spiritual home in the kraal – a fenced enclosure used to house cattle, and the gathering place for traditional meetings and communal ceremonies. In Xhosa culture, the kraal is the heart of the homestead, a sacred site with a direct link to the spirits of the family’s ancestors. iThongo, meaning ‘dreamscape’, refers to the medium through which messages – uYalezo – are transmitted from the ancestors.
In a reversal of traditional art-world practice, Dyalvane premiered the entire collection of ceramic sculptures at his family homestead in Ngobozana, prior to opening the exhibition first in Cape Town and then in New York. For two days in November 2020, guests sat upon the chairs inside the family kraal as the community gathered to celebrate one of their own, honour their forebears, feast, sing, and dance.
iThongo invites audiences to sit down and listen, to bear witness to one another and the passage of time. It is an assertion of Black pride, and of our shared humanity.
Watch the full documentary and read more about Dyalvane’s practice here.