The 9th National Ceramics Biennale stuns at the National Art Gallery of Namibia

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There’s something sacred about an art museum. It is a place where the closet-dreamers find a moment, even just a second, to become immersed in soulful inspiration. This year’s 9th National Ceramics Biennale hosted by the Potters Association of Namibia (PAN) drew a large crowd at its opening in Windhoek last month, but after the prizes had been handed out and the halls of the National Art Gallery dimmed to its usual quiet, the exhibition space once more became peaceful.

 

Text and photography by Nina van Zyl

It’s there, bereft of the noise of the outside world, the advertisements, the traffic, the notifications screaming to be swiped, that the breath deepens and the eyes roam slowly over the ceramic works, savouring texture, colour, form. “We are increasingly being catapulted into this cyber age of information overload. Making contemplative and utilitarian objects by hand forms a necessary antidote,” said the Biennale’s International Judge, Clementina van der Walt. “Handcrafted ceramics, as we all practise, is very particular as it involves both technical skill and knowledge but most importantly, the human spirit.”

 

And spirit there was in droves. This year saw a total of 44 entrants, who submitted 281 pieces to the event. Of these, some came from as far as the Zambezi Region, where Mrs Janet Motota in conjunction with Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) collected ceramics made by the local community, which were couriered down to Windhoek courtesy of PAN and entered into the competition. 

 

The hall is dotted with stands showcasing the expert skill of John Hunter and Jacqui Jansen van Vuuren, the stunning sculptures of Rosa Julia Smit, Mitchell Gatsi and Annabelle Venter, and creations splashed with bright colours. However, viewed as a collective, it is clear that there is a thread of the organic, of nature, that links all the pieces. Pottery is, after all, made from the four elements: earth, fire, water and air.

Earthen handwork, Sarie Maritz.
Porcelain tea bowls by Genie Alberts.
ceramics
Ceramics by Sarie Maritz.

Pottery is, after all, an ancient art-form, perhaps one of humankind’s oldest inventions. “The earliest decorative piece of pottery ever discovered dates back to 20 000 years ago,” said Jacqui Jansen van Vuuren, Executive Chair of PAN. The success of the biennale is a tribute to the interest and passion not only of the members of PAN but also the non-members. On judging both professionals and novices, Clementina van der Walt noted, “I was aware that many of the makers are not fulltime potters and others are beginners. In light of this, I have been impressed with the standard achieved and the general high quality of submissions.”  

Winners by category:

 

Premier Award: John Hunter

Wheelwork: Jacqui Jansen van Vuuren

Handwork: John Hunter

Sculpture: Rosa Julia Smit

Rural Pottery: Wakunvambo Sinvula

New signature: Rosi Stevenson

Most promising new beginner: Sylvester Tjinotjiua

 

The 9th National Ceramics Biennale exhibition runs from 15 August to 20 September 2019 at the National Art Gallery of Namibia. Opening times are: Mondays from 2 pm to 5pm, Tuesdays to Fridays, from 8 pm to 5 pm, and on Saturdays between 9 am and 1 pm. 

“Tortillis seeds,” sculpture, Annabelle Venter.

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