Iziko holds ceramics that originate from many parts of the world, mainly Asia, Europe, Africa, and in particular southern Africa. Contemporary works by South African ceramic artists form an important and developing part of the collection.
Chinese ceramics constitute the largest section, with a collection of early wares dating as far back as the Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220). These early wares mostly belong to the Judge RPB Davis collection. Asian ceramics made for the European export market date from the 17th to the 19th centuries and are well represented in Iziko’s ceramic collection.
We hold an extensive collection of African ceramics, in particular pottery vessels from southern Africa.
South African ceramics made during the 20th and 21st centuries by studio potters and by production potteries form the focal point of the collection and is being actively developed. The work of pioneering pottery studios and early studio potters are represented, as well as that of emerging ceramic artists.}Currently, the showcase for our South African ceramics collection is an exhibition titled ‘Fired – An exhibition of South African ceramics’ at the Castle of Good Hope. Fired includes some of the oldest ceramic works in the collection, namely Khoekhoe pottery. In 2012/2013 Fired was acknowledged as Best New Museum Project by the Western Cape Government’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport.
To celebrate South Africa’s rich and diverse legacy of ceramic making, Iziko’s Social History Collections Department opened the Fired exhibition on South African ceramics in February 2012 at the Castle. The exhibition is housed in a 17th century space built as a grain store for the Dutch East India Company or VOC. This is an evocative area which resonates with the beauty of the ceramics it now houses.
The exhibition showcases more than 200 ceramic works from the holdings of the Iziko’s permanent collection and includes examples of the earliest indigenous pottery made in South Africa, going back some 2000 years, through to contemporary creations. Fired focuses on ceramics made by rural African potters, studio potters, production potteries and contemporary ceramic artists in South Africa.
Collected over a period of more than a hundred years, the ceramics include items from archaeological excavations, field trips, private donations, sponsorships, and purchases from commercial galleries and auctions or directly from artists.
The title Fired was chosen because of the transformative power of fire over clay. Fire is the one aspect which unites this array of ceramics – from ceramics made by women or men; works made from different kind of clays such as earthenware, stoneware or porcelain; works made using different techniques, e.g., built up by hand, or thrown on the wheel; works with different surface treatments, either burnished, glazed or decorated; and works made for differing purposes, whether for functionality or being contemplative, sculptural and decorative or indeed a combination.
The works on exhibition are accompanied by a timeline and information panels covering a range of themes to inform visitors about the rich history of ceramics and its multi-layered meanings.
Images from the museum’s archives illustrate various pottery making techniques and aspects of interest related to the artists and the tools and methods used. An educational DVD illustrates diverse clay techniques and practices.
Fired is a semi-permanent exhibition and will be on view for some of years to come.