Body Vessel Clay – an engaging exhibition of pottery and ceramic art and the creative work of Black women over the last 70 years. From the traditional weighty water jug made in Nigeria to expressive painted ceramics by contemporary artists living outside Africa, the inheritance of clay and its many uses is explored and celebrated at Two Temple Place.

When you think of historical Africa it’s very easy to visualise beautiful rounded clay vessels used for food, water and cooking. What we often overlook is the remarkable artistic hinterland of these pieces. What we also forget is that women made these pots, using clay in its purest state, straight from the ground, using their hands and eye to form practical, durable yet beautifully decorated pots. The exhibition has assembled work by the seminal Nigerian Potter, Ladi Kwali (1925-1984) who was trained in the traditions of pottery and then worked closely with the British potter Michael Cardew to develop a new creativity within pottery. The pot in the picture above was by Dame Magdalene Odundo during her time in Abuja. She learned the skills from Kwali but wanted the world to understand and appreciate the aesthetic of this most ancient of artf-orms. Below is a photo of a pot by Odundo made in 1983.

The exhibition covers around 70 years of pottery practice and artistic evolution. In the upper rooms there are films, such as Jade Montserrat’s performance, Clay (2015 filmed by Webb-Ellis) where she immerses herself in clay, naked, digging, shifting great clods of clay and covering her body with a layer of liquid clay.

I liked the organic terracotta shapes by Bisila Noha – Dancing Goddess. Wonderfully free-fall.

This ‘torso’ by Phoebe Collings-James entitled The subtle rules the dense (2021) relates to the body as a container.

I’ve added a few more images of pots which caught my eye. The show is on at Two Temple Place (worth a visit just to see this extraordinary building) until 22nd April 2022.

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