Ceramics Southern Africa


SINCE 1972


Sonwabiso Ngcai Award judge – OPENING SPEECH at 6 Spin Street Gallery, Cape Town

Thank you everyone for coming to a3end the opening and award ceremony. I am Sonwabiso Ngcai from
Gqeberha. I teach ceramics at Nelson Mandela University and I am also a ceramist. I am more of Fine art
ceramist, and I believe one will understand how this influenced my judging.
However, my criteria was not separate from the one we were given as a panel, but it is just an extension of it.
The criteria included the following: concept, integraIon and execuIon. All of these come to a single aspect and
that DEPTH in the work. If I start by looking at the concept, one of the most important aspect is intenIonality.
What is the intenIon of the piece? What is the arIst trying to achieve in her or his work or in their work?
ExecuIon: Does the work demonstrate a sufficient degree of formal and technical competency at the level of
entry? And furthermore, does it go beyond these requirements to bring a degree of technical innovaIon. And
lastly integraIon: Here we were looking at success of the elements brought together – in other words how the
technique supports the concept.
All of the aforemenIoned revolve around exploraIon of ceramic material from the perspecIve of an arIst as
perhaps a researcher. The ceramic material is explored through aestheIcs and making – vice- versa. I quote
Friska Falin who says that “the material connecIon is understood as a broad term introducing the idea of
different levels of involvement with the material”. For me, materiality plays a vital role in how the work is
achieved. It is therefore important to reflect on specific material qualiIes that affect our engagement with the
ceramic material.
This reflecIon is or may form part of our conceptualisaIon when wriIng about the work. It is about opening up
an intrinsic connecIon to ceramic material that is constantly influencing one’s engagement to it. It is therefore, a
missed opportunity when we don’t highlight or reinforce these connecIons.
During our panel discussions we deliberated heavily on the issue of conceptual statement versus descripIon of
the work, and unfortunately, through my own observaIons, most tradiIonal ceramics tend to shy away from this
important aspect – wriIng about technique and arIsIc intent. However, I do not take away the fact that work
must have its own voice, its own language. A language that invites to viewer to find meaning. Ceramics offers us
a voice, but we also allow it to communicate with us either through form, shape, texture, colour etc.
Besides, I have learnt that most of the premier ceramists explore the material qualiIes of clay through various
firing and finishing methods thereby they ask more of the material and expand its boundaries. Some explore
glazes and oxides in various clay bodies. All of these acquisiIons consItute pracIce-led research and should be
reflected upon. I o[en say to my students; when you create any form of art, a viewer should be able to learn
something from your work. They should be able examine, interrogate, analyses both the arIst mind and the
work alike. A viewer should be able to extract something from one’s work either conceptually, technically or
UlImately, judging this work demanded a lot of deliberaIon in successfully fulfilling the criteria. Largely, my
decision making is informed by acknowledging how Ceramics is evolving and taking new contemporary
trajectories, and my selecIon recognises works that demonstrate the pushing of boundaries, of what ceramics
works can be, allowing the viewer to witness the sheer versaIlity of the medium. With those words, I would to
thank Corobrik and Ceramics Southern Africa for giving me the opportunity to be part of the adjudicaIon panel.
Sonwabiso Ngcai Hosted by

Ceramics SA Western Cape Region
+27 82 645 7020