iLobola / A Monument to the Brides

Zizipho Poswa pays homage to the spiritual offering at the heart of the longstanding African custom of lobola (bride-wealth) in her first solo exhibition, a collection of monumental ceramic and bronze sculptures.

According to Xhosa tradition, when a couple marries, the groomʼs family gifts a number of cows to the brideʼs family after a process of negotiation between the two parties. In more recent times the animals are often replaced by a monetary payment, leading the practice to be viewed as more commercial in nature. But Poswa believes that this obscures the primary purpose of lobola – ukwakhiwa kobuhlobo, the building of relations between the two families. During the negotiation process, the families engage in a deep and meaningful way. They discuss what bonds the couple together and identify potential pitfalls in the union. Should the couple face challenges in the future, they have this safety net to turn to.

iLobola also raises questions that it disempowers and objectifies women, but Poswa unapologetically overrides this perception, choosing to celebrate both strength and sensuality in her work. The sculpturesʼ ceramic bases take the form of voluminous teardrops, undulating gourds and giant barrels that invite anthropomorphic associations. Like some of Poswaʼs earlier works, this series straddles figuration and abstraction, employing an intuitive vocabulary of shape, colour and texture. Her artistic practice revolves around aspects of Black female identity in current-day South Africa, paying homage to the sacrifices of mothers, positing the importance of sisterhood, and celebrating intact cultural spaces where Western influence has remained at bay.

Zizipho Poswa is a Cape Town-based ceramic artist whose large-scale, hand-coiled sculptures are bold declarations of African womanhood. She is inspired by the daily Xhosa rituals she witnessed as a young girl growing up in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa and the life-sustaining roles that Xhosa women play in traditional and contemporary life.

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