The University of Iowa

The pottery of Magwaza women

February 10th, 2014

The following except is from Christopher Roy's blog as he recounts his journey through South Africa. Roy is a professor in the School of Art and Arts History and Elizabeth M. Stanley Faculty Fellow of African Art History. See his blog.


I just returned to Johannesburg from Kwa Zulu/Natal.  Yesterday we visited the Makwaza family of female Zulu potters in the spectacular Tugela River Valley of KZN.  The valley is vastly wider and longer than the Grand Canyon. We spoke (and documented) at length with the Magwaza women and looked at their pottery.  They have been patronized for several years by a wonderful woman name Juliet Armstrong, who has advised them and helped them sell their pottery. She died a year ago of brain cancer, and now the Magwaza’s are “adrift” and trying to find a way to market their art.  Their pottery is superb, and I purchase a fine middle-sized beer pot, superbly decorated, for R400 ($40) to donate to the art museum at Wits.

We left the Magwaza women at about 3 PM and took the long road through Jameson Drift (ford, river crossing) as we headed back to Marits.  The views of this enormous valley were extraordinary.  Enormous mountains of sandstone, capped with a thick layer of basalt (which protected the sandstone beneath from erosion). Vast, vast, green, green.

Gavin Whitelaw showed us a very interesting early stone age archaeological site he had excavate right near the river.  These people were very sophisticate tens of thousand of years ago.

Dinner at an Indian restaurant named Tandour in Marits.


Read more of Professor Roy’s blog