BODY OF WORK Ceram­i­cist Madoda Fani talks in­spi­ra­tion

With an un­lim­ited source of in­spi­ra­tion, the Cape Town­based ceram­i­cist mixes tra­di­tional tech­niques with mod­ern de­signs to ex­quis­ite ef­fect



When I work, I sit at a ta­ble with my pieces placed on top un­der sponges be­cause they are so frag­ile. There’s al­ways mu­sic play­ing in my stu­dio and some­times I dance while I’m sculpt­ing, but be­cause I can’t risk nudg­ing my pots, my legs and feet will do the moves while I’m sit­ting down.


Since I was a child, I’ve loved art, and when I was 10 years old, I painted a mu­ral in a Cape Town town­ship for the ‘Keep the Cape in Shape’ campaign of the 1980s. It stayed on that wall for more than 20 years, and ev­ery time I walked past it, it told me I was ca­pa­ble of be­ing an artist if I wanted to be.


I smoke-fire my pots and the aroma of smoke trans­ports me back to tra­di­tional African cer­e­monies, which al­ways in­volve a lot of fire. The scent re­minds me of where I come from. It’s the same when I hear cer­tain songs: I smell what was cook­ing at the time that the song was first play­ing in our fam­ily kitchen.


They’re es­sen­tial to what I do, es­pe­cially my right hand, which I use for the ma­jor­ity of my work. First I’ll cre­ate the per­fect shape, and then I’ll sketch on a piece us­ing tools in­stead of draw­ing on pa­per be­fore­hand. I’ve al­ways liked to change things and not do them the way they were cre­ated be­fore, so I’ve dis­cov­ered new ways of carv­ing, which took me a few years to learn. But I also use old meth­ods such as bur­nish­ing in­stead of glaz­ing, which was orig­i­nally used on beer pots to seal the sur­face and pre­vent leaks.


For me, my in­spi­ra­tion is not lim­ited. The shapes of my sculp­tures are mostly based on tra­di­tional beer pots, but I also look at dif­fer­ent things. For ex­am­ple, I got the idea for one of my works from an axe that my fa­ther made by weld­ing to­gether scrap metal that he found dur­ing his time as a con­struc­tion worker. When it comes to my carv­ings, I of­ten draw from na­ture, so there are de­pic­tions of cows and in­sects on some of my works.


Mu­sic plays a big role in my life and I couldn’t work with­out it. I con­sider it one of my tools and I like lis­ten­ing to jazz and reg­gae while I sculpt. Bob James and Bob Mar­ley are two of my favourite artists.


I like to watch movies, and the body ar­mour I see in­flu­ences my de­signs. The Last Samu­rai is a huge source of in­spi­ra­tion, and re­cently I’ve turned to Black Pan­ther for my lat­est range.


If I could give my ceram­ics a voice, I’d like them to re­mind peo­ple to pre­serve their her­itage and cul­ture while still keep­ing up with the times. I make my sculp­tures us­ing tra­di­tional tech­niques such as coil­ing, bur­nish­ing and carv­ing, but I adorn them with con­tem­po­rary de­signs. So I com­bine both in my work and am try­ing to show that ceram­ics can be seen as an art form in­stead of as just a craft. fan­i­madoda;

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