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Zikoti Magwaza, Umancishana, 2008, terracotta, smoke fired. Magwaza Traditional Authority. Ceramic Technology Laboratory (Anthropology)

1000 Miles Apart ceramics conference

September 18, 2019 — 

The School of Art Gallery is launching an exhibition that connects the art of alumnus PJ Anderson [BFA(Hons)/09] with 10 Zulu artists.

This exhibition, part of the 30th annual 1000 Miles Apart ceramics conference, represents cultural connections around the world through contemporary ceramics and traditional practices.

The 1000 Miles Apart conference will feature lectures, demonstrations, and exhibitions on contemporary ceramics and its expansive practice today, including combining clay with virtual reality, ceramics and sound, and a mixing of traditional and new technologies including 3D digital methods. Artists including PJ Anderson, Christopher Reid Flock, Terry Hildebrand and Jimmie Kilpatrick will give lectures and workshops (details below).

What: 30th annual 1000 Miles Apart ceramics conference, Sept. 26-29, 2019
When: Exhibition runs now until Sept. 29, 2019
Reception on Sept. 26 from 6 – 9 p.m. with keynote address by PJ Anderson and Kent Fowler at 7 p.m., in Rm 136 of ARTlab
Where: Exhibition taking place in School of Art Collections Gallery, ARTlab, with workshops in the ArtBarn and the Ceramics and Sculpture Building

The conference is free and open to all.


PJ Anderson, Bladed Pitcher, 2010, earthenware, terra sigillata, smoke fired. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“This is the first time pieces from Dr. Kent Fowler’s extensive collection of Zulu pottery are being shown publically. It has been a great honour working with Kent to bring his collection to light and to integrate the work of former School of Art student PJ Anderson with the pottery of 10 female Zulu artists who have influenced her practice and are celebrated contemporary artists in their own right. It is gratifying to bring these works together into a common venue where shared yet unique experience co-exists and begins an important conversation,” says Grace Nickel, an award-winning ceramic artist and the conference’s organizer and co-curator.

During her BFA studies, PJ Anderson joined U of M anthropology professor Kent Fowler, who studies traditional South African pottery, during a field season. While in South Africa she worked with Zulu potters, gaining inspiration from their rich cultural traditions that she infused in her own work that addresses her Jamaican and Aboriginal heritage. The pieces she created for the exhibit bring attention to the historical and current marginalization of people of colour in North America.

Displayed alongside Anderson’s pieces will be the work of 10 female Zulu potters from four communities in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. These women invest their own identity and experiences into their work, while drawing from a tradition that spans thousands of years. The work produced is at once distinctively individual, regional, and “Zulu.”

“It reflects the different practices, traditions, and histories of contemporary Zulu potters both as members of the largest cultural group in South Africa and as rural women living in a society still struggling to right itself of inequality and poverty a quarter century after the fall of apartheid,” Fowler, the exhibit’s co-curator, says of the works.

The aim of Fowler’s visits to the area over the course of his 12-year research project, which Anderson joined in 2009, was to understand the practices of potters, their technical knowledge, how people taught and learned the craft, and what had changed and why during the 20th century.

“This exhibition is one of the outcomes of that project and it highlights what a brilliant artist PJ has developed into. I’d like to think her experience on the project was influential. She did move to South Africa to take up a residency there, so it must have lit a bit of a fire.”

Indeed it did.

“Watching, documenting and making work during those two visits has led to a long-term interest in ancient technology and its applications,” Anderson says. “Contemporary artists working with and making with technologies passed down throughout generations reinforces connections to cultural practices and community in a way that resonates strongly with me and some aspects of my work.

“My work draws from hundreds of years removed from the involuntary migration of my Jamaican, Indigenous and European peoples….We have very few stories or skills passed down, because they were forbidden. I was initially trained, not by a grandmother or an Elder, but an art school. It is an uneasy thing, to learn about one’s own cultural heritage from elective classes, taught by scholars and anthropologists, not members of that group…. My work is informed by that uneasy relationship between my indirect knowledge of my ancestors,” Anderson says, “to how I strive for a connection through using these techniques.”

The exhibit’s featured artists include: PJ Anderson, Nesta Gumbi, Peni Gumbi Nonhlanhla, Shongani Gumede, Joyce Khumalo, Shongaziphi Magwaza, Thandiwe Magwaza, Zikoti Magwaza, Gijeni Mtungwa, Doris Mngomezulu, and Grace Ndlovu.

1000 Miles Apart


large yellow, blue and red sculptures of squeezed toys

Christopher Reid Flock’s “Jomon Squeeze Toys Installation” (2018) // Photo: Christopher Reid Flock

Four Guest Artists

PJ Anderson
  • Exhibition reception for Contemporary Traditions and Allusions: Anderson, Fowler and Ten Zulu Potters, ARTlab Collections Gallery, Sept. 26, 6–9 p.m.
  • Keynote Address with Dr. Kent Fowler, U of M Department of Anthropology: ARTlab Rm. 136, Thursday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m.
  • Workshop Demonstration: Ceramics and Sculpture Building Rm. 115, Friday, Sept. 27, 9:30 a.m.–12 noon.
Christopher Reid Flock
  • Workshop Demonstration: Art Barn Rm. 139, Friday, Sept. 27, 2:45–4:45 p.m.
  • Workshop Demonstration: Art Barn Rm. 139, Saturday, Sept. 28, 9:00 a.m.–noon and 1:30–4:00 p.m.
  • Artist’s Talk: ARTlab Rm. 368, Friday, Sept.27, 1:30–2:30 p.m.
Terry Hildebrand
Jimmie Kilpatrick
  • Closing Address: ARTlab Rm. 136, Sunday, Sept. 29, 10 a.m.

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