By Michelle Munatswa
Twenty one years old Aphile Sibanda is part of a growing number of young men passionate about pottery work in Zimbabwe.
Sibanda graduated from Mzilikazi Arts and Craft Centre located in Makokoba in Bulawayo with a certificate in pottery work.
He pursued this career because it was his passion since child hood growing up in the suburb of Matshobani.
“I was always eager to learn how different ceramic and pottery artefacts were made thus it prompted me to take up pottery work as a profession,” states Sibanda.
Pottery work is the art of turning clay into ceramic through a firing process. Clay is fired at high temperatures in an oven to remove all water, which leads to it hardening.
After an initial firing, glazes can be added to the hardened clay for decorative and waterproofing purposes.
Sibanda states that one of the reasons he pursued pottery work was the excitement of producing something without a manual were end product depended on the production process.
“There are some technical boundaries, but you can create almost anything with clay. I also like the fact that once it’s fired, clay takes on a new form and becomes functional. It feels like the most primitive art form, says Sibanda.
“Clay is a very forgiving medium, as things do not have to be perfect to look good,” says Sibanda excitedly.
He notes that a creation with a crooked handle or asymmetric proportions can look even more personalised.
Clay’s flexibility accounts for pottery’s wide appeal. While it can be used to make utilitarian objects such as plates and cups, it can also be used to make art pieces and sculptures.
Sibanda makes ceramic pots, plates and cups with dainty rosy-cheeked faces among the many designs, which he sells under his brand, polkaros.
His goods, priced from $5 to $250, are sold in different tourist shops, Bulawayo city hall and all over the country.
He is making a living out of his creations and is grateful to Mzilikazi Arts and Craft Centre for equipping him with such self reliant skills.
The institute has been used to cultivate and nurture the development of cultural activities and the promotion of artistic talent in the city. It is run by the City of Kings Business Ventures, a wholly owned Bulawayo City Council company that is registered as an educational vocational training institution.
The training school section provides graduate labour and skills transfer while the pottery section provides industrial attachment and employment to graduates.
“Commercialization of the centre has further enhanced its focus on creating an art graduate who is an entrepreneur and self-reliant. The pottery section is customer oriented and aims to make a profit,” said Moses Munthali, the general manager of City of Kings Business Ventures.
The school offers courses in ceramics, wood and stone sculpture, batik, pottery and batik and tie and dye. Students from as far as Botswana, Zambia and South Africa have studied here.
Award-winning artists produced by the centre include Dominic Benhura, Mbizo Khumalo, Esther Nhliziyo, Samuel Jubane, Sipho Masina and Vote Thebe, the current Bulawayo National Art Gallery Director.
The school works closely with primary and secondary schools as well as colleges in and around the city to identify and nurture new talent among youths, who are trained during school holidays thus open to all.