Zizipho Poswa’s uBuhle boKhokho

WORDS Gina Dionisio PHOTOS Hayden Phipps/Southern Guild

Zizipho Poswa explores the art of hairstyling practised by Black women across the African continent and diaspora in a new series of ceramic and bronze sculptures now showing at Southern Guild.

Internationally acclaimed ceramic artist Zizipho Poswa‘s new exhibition titled uBuhle boKhokho (Beauty of Our Ancestors) is a continued exploration of her own cultural story as a Xhosa woman and an expansion on works in her earlier Magodi series.

Hair has a profound symbolic relationship to Blackness, and for Zizipho it was a major source of inspiration for uBuhle boKhokho, a series of photographs and sculptures, which took the artist almost a year to conceptualise and craft.

READ MORE: Southern Guild: Inkundla X Design Miami 2022
Zizipho Poswa uBuhle boKhokho

She created and wore 12 hairstyles over a period of five months, documenting each style photographically as part of her creative research. Having specialised in textile design at university, the artist was drawn to the process of constructing each hairstyle and the meditative aspect of crafting their patterns.

Through attentive documentation, hair becomes a personal script for language and a celebration of self as an act of defiance.

The sculptures which evolved from this process are monumental in scale (they measure up to two metres high), and while they are confrontational in their sheer size they retain an imposing sensuality. Their hand-coiled ceramic bases reflect Zizipho’s shift in focus from pattern and colour to shape and texture, culminating in elaborate adornments made from either bronze or clay.

Zizipho Poswa's uBuhle boKhokho
Zizipho in her studio creating the sculptures for uBuhle boKhokho

There are many historic and contemporary hairstyles which she referenced for this series of 20 sculptures, including architectural constructions where the hair (both natural and artificial) is wrapped over armatures, the complex crested arrangement worn by Fulani women from West Africa and the fan-shaped headpiece of the Zande from Congo.

Zizipho Poswa uBuhle boKhokho
Curated throughout Southern Guild’s gallery space, uBuhle boKhokho invites the viewer to walk through an assembly of selves with each work reflecting a different hairstyle.

Some of the exhibition’s sculptures have been titled after specific women that have played a prominent role in the artist’s life, and their country of origin. She interweaves the personal and historic; situating herself in a vast and ever-expanding network of Black women who continue to self-define and affirm their own standards of beauty.

Zizipho will be travelling to Miami, Florida to attend Design Miami 2022, where she will be exhibiting two additional works from this series as part of the Southern Guild presentation, titled Inkundla. uBuhle boKhokho is showing at Southern Guild from 17 November 2022 to 3 February 2023. For more information, visit southernguild.co.za.

Looking for more local art? Sign up to our weekly newsletter, here.