Turning a functional object into Art, Meet Jabu Nala & Ifeanyi Oganwu

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We met Jabu Nala on the opening day of the exhibition ‘Seeking Africa : Art / Design Across A Continent’ in Notting Hill. After two and half years of preparation, the exhibition organized by Themes & Variations opened with over 12 African Artists and Designers. Together, they offered a glimpse into the Contemporary Design scene in Africa.

Jabu Nala is the Daughter of the renowned ceramist Nesta Nala. She started learning the Art with her mother back in 1979. Although she still cites her mother as a source for her inspiration, She is recognized the world over as a ceramist artist in her own right.

She decides upon the shapes of the pots from the outset and moulds the clay accordingly. The result is spectacular: intricate vases of different sizes and shapes : tall and rectangular, small & round. They are embellished with small geometrical carvings that are structured together in bolder patterns on the vase. She loves her work and it is evident the vases are a labour of love. While the technic she uses, has been passed down from generations to generations, a major evolution happened with the Nalas.

They have transformed an everyday object originally solely used for cooking and serving into a work of Art. She signs her creations and sees them as her legacy. A legacy, she is ready to preserve by sharing the knowledge with the younger generations.

The versatility of the objects on display being both an Art work and a functional object is an underlining theme of the exhibition.

The designer Ifeanyi Oganwu confirmed as much. The stool he created in collaboration with the Artist Phoebe Boswell for the textile Company Toghal fits that description. It is a confortable seat and served that purpose both at the exhibition and at the lounge of the 1:54 fair back in October. As an Art Work, this stool, named pedestal, causes people to stand, and query its origin, its arch shape. It serves as a minimalist support for the bolsters upholstered with a vivid fabric, a reinterpretation of Kanga, a print that originates from Kenya.

There is a lot more to see at Themes and Variations. The exhibition runs until December 16th.



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