iThongo / A Photo Essay

Situated at the foot of the great Amathole Mountains in South Africaʼs Eastern Cape province is the village of Ngobozana, about 100 kms from the city of East London. Here, for two days in November 2020, residents gathered at Andile Dyalvaneʼs family homestead to celebrate the launch of iThongo and its historic homecoming to the artistʼs birthplace.

The entire collection of 19 ceramic sculptures went on view in his familyʼs kraal, a sacred site with a direct link to the spirits of the ancestors. Arranged in a circle, they were used as seats for the duration of various traditional Xhosa ceremonies, literally melding with the soil and animal dung lining the kraal floor. Dyalvane presented the people of Ngobozana with 100 terracotta beer pots – one for every household – to use for drinking homebrewed beer.

Wearing traditional Xhosa beadwork and wrapped in patterned blankets, Dyalvane and his family members paid their respects to their ancestorsʼ spirits in a solemn procession across the valley and up the hill to the site of the old village, which had been forcibly removed by the Apartheid government in 1965. There they installed uMalusi (Shepherd) from the iThongo collection on a cement plinth overlooking ancestral burial grounds, recited blessings and performed cleansing rites with traditional herbs. uMalusi is on permanent display there – an offering from the artist to all of the surrounding villages and a place to grieve what was lost, come together in song and heal the scars of displacement.

Andile Dyalvane is one of South Africa’s foremost ceramic artists. Guided by a deep spiritual connection to his Xhosa ancestors, Dyalvane’s complex, large-scale ceramic artworks are a metaphorical vessel through which he seeks to honour his cultural traditions and share his journey of healing.

a comment

Select your currency
ZAR South African rand