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Zanoxolo Mgqeku uses traditional methods to create his vessels, but combines their unique sand-cast textures with contemporary glazes and markings.

HL Next Level 2019: Ceramicist Zanoxolo Mgqeku

Illustration Stacey Knipe

Zanoxolo Mgqeku | House and Leisure

Each year, House and Leisure creates a special feature that is all about up-and-coming South African creative talent. We look closely at the worlds of decor and design, and ask architects, ceramicists, product designers, artists, jewellers and photographers to tell us who we should be watching out for in their areas of work. 

Recent alumni of the Next Level list include fashion designer Rich Mnisi, photographer Zander Opperman and illustrator Karabo Poppy Moletsane, among many others. Check out the entire 2018 Next Level crew here.

The research phase of the work on this feature is followed by a discussion of precisely who we want to showcase – and why. This year, the team recognised that there has been a palpable return to the handmade recently, and so we wanted everyone who was featured to be someone who makes their pieces by hand.

From a textile designer to a jeweller and a chef, all the creatives included in 2019’s House and Leisure Next Level list do just that.

Ceramicist Zanoxolo Mgqeku Is One Of Them

The rapid global industrialisation of developing economies is escalating the loss of ancient crafts, and the beautiful art of sand-cast ceramics is one of the worst affected, with only a few living artisans practicing the historic technique.

But with his work, 32-year-old Zanoxolo Mgqeku is making sure that the secrets and lessons of sand-cast ceramics survive the ravages of time.

Mgqeku uses traditional methods to create his vessels, but combines  the almost archaeological sand-cast textures with contemporary glazes and markings.

As well as developing his own line of ceramics, Mgqeku is studying at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein, and hosting workshops around the country to teach more people about the craft of sand-cast ceramics.

‘The fundamental phases of my process involve physically handling materials like sand and clay in such a way that the final piece is affected by a conversation around cultural objects as tangible heritage or “unclassified fossils”,’ Mgqeku says.

‘These pieces, in their weathered, post-biotic condition, can start dialogues on global issues, such as climate change and industrialisation.’  

Watch Our Video Portrait Of Zanoxolo Mgqeku Here

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