|The art of ceramics|
|Thursday, 07 April 2011 20:49|
As a result, terra cotta (baked earth) has been used all over the world from China to Peru, Spain to Mexico, and Cape to Cairo.
In art history, ceramics and ceramic art mean art objects such as pots, pitchers, bowls, vases plates, figures, tiles and other tableware. Some ceramics products are regarded as fine art, while others as industrial or applied art objects, or as artifacts in archaeology.
There is a long history of ceramic art in almost all developed cultures like that of the north in Africa, 2000 year ago. Cultures noted for fine ceramics include Chinese, Cretan, Greek, Persian, Mayan, and Japanese, Korean and many African tribes and groups of people.
Pottery is used in archeological studies of pre-historic cultures. The names of the ancient cultures are taken from the distinctive cultures such as "globular amphora" culture, "funnel beaker" culture and "linear pottery" culture, which are examples of Neolithic European cultures (approximately 7000-1800 BC)
Ceramic art has generated many styles from its own tradition, but is often closely related to contemporary sculpture and metal work.
China, the oldest pottery
Yachanyan gave in Hunan, china yielded shards of ceramic vessels and other art facts which were dated by analysis of charcoal and bone collagen giving a date range of 17 500-18 300 years for the pottery.
These pottery specimens may be the oldest known examples of pottery anywhere in the world, and provide some of the earliest evidence for pottery making in China. Pottery which dates to 10 000 BC has also been excavated in China. Chinese emperors gave ceramics as diplomatic gifts on a lavish scale.
It is known that during the reign of Munhumutapa trading with China is evident, and Chinese pottery found at Great Zimbabwe as late as 1949, confirms this interchange.
There is Chinese porcelain from the late "eastern Han period (100-200 AD) the three kingdoms period (220-280 AD) the six dynasties period (220- 589AD) and thereafter China in particular has had a continuous history of large-scale porcelain production, with "the imperial factories" usually producing the best work. The imperial porcelain is regarded by many art authorities as the peak of Chinese ceramics of the "song dynasty (966-1279 AD) and the works from this period are highly valued and highly priced word over.
Small quantities of expensive Chinese porcelain were imported into Europe. In England by 1749 a patent was taken out on the first "Bone China" and subsequently perfected by Joseph Spode. From the 17th century, Stoke-on-Trent in north Stafford shire, England, emerged as a major centre of pottery making and important contributions to the development of the industry were made by Wedgwood, Spode, Royal Dolton and Minton. Josiah Wedgwood's methodical and detailed research on ceramics established North Staffordshire as a as a leading ceramic production centre.
Wedgwood is credited with the industrialisation of the manufacture of pottery and was known for his rigorous pursuit for perfection. He is also credited with perfecting transfer printing on ceramics in England in about 1750.
The Koreans also had a continuous tradition of pottery earthenware since 8000 BC. The ceramics of the "Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392 AD) and the Joseon white porcelain of the following dynasty are regarded as the pinnacle of Korean pottery.
Famous figurines in clay
The clay venusses the earliest known ceramic objects in Europe are the Gravettian figures from the upper Paceolithic period discovered at Dolni Verstonice in modern day Czech Republic. The Venus of Dolni Vestonice (Vestonkka Venus Czech) is a nude female figurine dating between 29 000 and 25 000 BC. It was made from a mould of clay and powdered bone.
Throughout Europe and Asia various figurines dating from the upper paceolithic period have been called "Venus" figurines. Their cultural significance is still to be established, but perhaps were meant as fertility figurines as those of North African culture.
Ancient Zimbabwean pottery
In the early Iron Age of Zimbabwe, pottery figurines of women were also found.
Ceramic pottery is a source of information of a society and the people that existed centuries ago. They can be decorated in many different ways, carrying with them many hidden messages. The Shona people of Zimbabwe have a long tradition of pottery making that has survived from the early Iron Age (AD 10). Shona pottery has intricate patterns and designs etched or painted on the vessels.
The patterns follow tradition and describe the potter's district, rank, clan and lineage. Particular pots were made for particular classes of people and some were buried with the dead, holding offerings of food and drink for the spirits.
In archaeology this pottery is a source of information about the society that existed centuries ago. Some important archeological pottery sites in Zimbabwe include the Chipuriro areas that harbour 13th and 14th century pottery at Mbagazewa. Similarly the Musengezi graves, north of Harare, that stretch from Lomagundi to Shamva, contain prehistoric pottery. Tasazingwe, near Bulawayo, contains pottery and other artifacts known as the Leopards Kopje tradition which show intricately designed pottery.
The Mapela tradition of pottery is situated near the Shashe River and the Mapungubwe tradition near the Limpopo Rver, and the Ingombe Ilede rare traditional pottery of the Zambezi people; this sophisticated pottery of the Zambezi people is decorated with cowrie shells, Indian glass beads, beaten gold and leather straps. Lastly, the Munhumutapa state pottery of Great Zimbabwe are distinguished by their rare Saphite glaze and subtle gold inlay, with surprisingly, very little pattering.
There are important Zimbabwean ceramic relics. Hari, pfuko, mbiya and hadyana are specific types of Shona pottery with different specific purposes used to serve beer as well as various dishes and relishes are still in domestic use today.
Native indigenous American pottery
The people in north, central and South American continents had a rich and wide variety of pottery traditions before the Europeans arrived. The oldest ceramics known in the Americas were made 6 000 years ago and the found in the Andean region along the Pacific Coast of Ecuador, at Valdivia and Puerto Horimiga and also in Peru .
In the United States the oldest pottery dates 2500 BC. It was found in the Timuguan ecological and historic preserve in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Hopi in northern Arizona and several other Puerloan peoples including Taos, Acoma and Zuni people of the South Western United States are renowned for painted pottery in several different styles. Some of the traditions are still being practised today. Today, there are ceramic departments in many colleges, universities and fine art institutes in the US whilst in Zimbabwe this tradition is neglected and its continuity will be lost.
Pottery in sub-Sahara Africa is traditionally made by coiling and is fired at low temperatures. The figurines of the ancient Nok culture are an example of high quality figural work found in many cultures, such as Benin of Nigeria.
Some famous modern African ceramicists include Ladi Kwali from Nigeria, a woman artist whose work fuses an interesting hybrid of traditional African and Western studio pattern. Similarly, Maddalene Odundo, a Kenyan-born British Studio potter whose ceramics are hand build and burnished. They command world attention at ceramic exhibitions in Europe.
Zimbabwe boasts the likes of Sue McCormic, who has received the Premio Acuisto award at an international ceramic show in Gualdo Tadino, Italy. She has represented Zimbabwe at several other ceramic biennales. Berry Bickle, Estelle Mbetura, Johannes Marimo, Carole Wales-Smith, Olga Azevedo, Froliuke Viewing and Eino Nganku are some notable contemporary Zimbabwean ceramicists who have kept this art form alive.
The elements that measure excellence in contemporary ceramic art are the shape of the object, its decoration, stylisation and ornamentation, either by painting or carving, as well as the methods of glazing incorporated in the artwork.
In Zimbabwe today, as in most of Africa, the arts grew directly out of the soil, and have remained true to the landscape that gave them birth. This article intends to revive the interest and scholarship associated with ceramics art in Zimbabwe.
Ceramics is a billion-dollar a year industry due to the advances made in ceramic engineering, material science and research. It is now also an important field of science and its applications continue to expand as researches develop new kinds of ceramics to serve different purposes.
They are now used to make bullet-proof vests, military aircraft armour, gas turbine engines, dentistry applications, orthopaedic implants, to pilots' watches, space shuttle jet engine turbines and photolithography - it is amazing to think it all began with a ball of wet clay and a pot.
l Dr Tony Monda holds a PhD in Post-Modern Art Theory and Philosophy and a DBA Doctorate in Business Administration of Post-Colonial Art and Heritage Studies.
He is a practising artist, visual designer, corporate image consultant and art critic.