With a strong mastery of the uphiso form and an eye for a subtly flattened slope towards the mouth of izinkamba, Jabu Nala has built a reputation for herself in the South African ceramic art world.  Her creation of larger vessels, banded design work and improvisations using the inkanyezi, or star design have been a sold basis for her creativity. Jabu has been creating clay beer pots in the traditional Zulu way.  She was taught by her mother Nesta, who developed a world-wide reputation for her classical forms and finely finished beer pots.

The clay is hand-dug in two places near to her home.  One is red and other grey. The clay is then ground using a traditional Zulu grinding-stone and then sieved through a sieve or a piece of net curtain. It is then dried and put into a ten gallon iron drum with 50% water.  The clay is then left to mature and then wedged and rolled into balls. The pots are hand-coiled and then smoothed with a piece of calabash or old spoon.  When leather-hard they are burnished with river pebbles and then decorated with incised patterns or added “warts” of clay using an ancient design called “Amansumpa”.  Soft “warts” of clay are  inserted on the surface with a clay slip and smoothed into the surface with a river pebble.  The pots are then left to dry naturally. 

Before firing, pieces of coal are put into the pots and warmed up to make sure that the pots are completely dry.  They are then placed on their sides in a special pattern and covered over with dried grass, aloe leaves and stalks.  The grass is then lit and then the aloe leaves catch fire - the firing lasts approximately 3 hours depending on weather conditions.

A second firing takes place to smoke the pots black.  The pots are placed on a metal tripod and turned with a stick over the flames to ensure an even smoking.  When thoroughly blackened, the pots are then cooled.  They are then rubbed with animal fat or oil and burnished to make them shine.

Exhibitions :

1997 - Kim Sacks Gallery Johannesburg

1998 - Isidlo Simpilo - Soul Food African Art Centre

1998 - FNB Vita Crafts Exhibition, Cape Town

2007 - Ukucwebezela : To Shine, African Art Centre


2002 Stair tiles for the New Constitutional Court, Jhb

Collections :

Johannesburg Art Gallery
Kim Sacks Collection
Gallery on the Square, Johannesburg
Clive Segal

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