Monday, 9 January 2012

Inspiration from Africa

Recently, I came across some images of funerary vessels made by the Bura asinda people, in what is now called Burkina Faso, West Africa:

"Funeral urns in phallic forms were made to be placed in the tomb of their deceased amongst personal effects such as arrowheads, lances, clothing, teeth and bones. Some are very tall (80 centimeters) and are topped off with small heads giving them a Giacometti-like aspect. Then, a « baura » was put on the tomb with its opening looking the skies, exactly like our tombstones or burial plaques.

These were accompanied by pots, other urns and heads representing family members of the deceased, all in terra cotta. The Bura Asinda-Sikka heads are generally completely flat, and are characterized by their great simplicity and, in the majority of the cases, are decorated with raised bumps running the length of the piece."

From memoire d'Afrique:

I really like the simple and characterful designs of these anthropomorphic pots. Many of the sculptures are quite cheerful and clearly meant to represent living, breathing individuals, whilst others are more sombre and ominous-looking, with designs which verge on the abstract.

I was inspired to make some small sculptures which can be turned upside down and used as cups:

Small beakers (unfired)

Small sculpture/beaker with ash glaze

The large piece below I made a few days ago in three sections. It was partly thrown, partly coiled and once leatherhard, I decorated it by smearing and pouring slips onto the surface.

Lidded vessel (unfired), approx 15 inches tall
The clay body contains alot of terracotta, so i'm not sure if I'll be able to fire it above 1200 degrees C...I may just take it up to high earthenware temperature.

The weather has been pretty miserable the last week or so, and it's freezing cold in my workspace at the moment. Hence I nip inside to warm up with a coffee for five minutes and it turns into half an hour of sitting at the PC, blog-writing. I think this is called classic avoidance behaviour..


  1. Excellent post,, I really like all of the obsessions and specially the information!


  2. Glad you enjoyed it, thanks for your comment!

  3. It's great that you draw inspiration from so many cultural sources. I think it enriches our work to see and try to understand forms built by people all over the world. When I teach my students about plant depictions we have a little taste of how many ways people have conceptualized the natural world. It really makes you wonder sometimes...

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sam. Definitely it enriches enormously, allows us to see with fresh eyes and provides jumping off ways to express what we want to express.