Nesta Nala & Clive Sithole

Two South African Zulu potters

Blackfired bowl by Nesta NalaPhoto: Collection Axis Gallery/Gary van Wyk & Lisa Brittan, photo Gary van Wyk

Nesta Nala (b. 1940) is an award-winning South African Zulu potter. Nala learnt how to make traditional Zulu beer pots from her mother Siphiwe, who was also a potter. She has in turn also taught her daughters Jabu, Zanele and Thembi Nala the craft. Her cousin Ntombe is also a potter.

Nesta NalaIn the mid 1980s, Nala made the transition from rural potter to art potter, after being highlighted as a master ceramist in Rhoda Levinsohn’s Art and Craft in Southern Africa.

Nala represented South Africa at the Cairo International Biennale for Ceramics in 1994. She won a first prize at the FNB Vita National Craft Exhibition in 1995 and another at the national ceramics biennial in 1996. Her bulbous coil-built, burnished, pit-fired and smoked pots are embellished with complex raised and incised designs in the classical ‘amansumpa’ style. The pots are then rubbed in animal fat and polished. Nala is considered a South African living national treasure.



Clive Sithole (b. 1971) is a well known South African Zulu potter. Sithole initially ran a fashion business, after studying fashion design at the London International School, Johannesburg, Gauteng.

Pit-fired vessel by Clive SitholePhoto: Collection Axis Gallery/Gary van Wyk & Lisa Brittan, photo Gary van Wyk

Clive SitholePhoto: Anthea Martin. Source: Axis Gallery

Contra to the tradition that only Zulu women make pottery, he was inspired in 1986 to take up the craft by Philemon Lerata of the Pietermaritzburg University’s Ceramics Department. In 1997 he joined the Babumbi Clay Project in Durban and attend ceramic classes at Durban University.

His pots are made in the traditional Zulu manner by coil-building and pit-firing. He has won several awards, including an FNB Vita Craft Now Merit Award in 2000 and a First Prize in Trophy Design for Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

Thanks to Gary van Wyk of Axis Gallery for the use of above images.

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