During the past few years, we have seen the revival of clay as a prime material for contemporary artists. Perhaps we as humans seek to become more grounded – more connected to the earth – amid perpetual crisis-fatigue. Perhaps we have finally come to the same realization as art critic Roberta Smith (who wrote in The New York Times in 2009) that “the art-craft divide is a bogus concept regularly obliterated by the undeniable originality of individuals who may call themselves artists, designers or artisans.”


The CUBE – Anton Bosch and Esra Bosch display

Pottery is believed to be the first synthetic material created by mankind and is described by art historians and archeologists alike as the silent keepers of human history. It should therefore come as no surprise that ceramic itself has one of the richest histories of any medium on earth.

Rust-en-Vrede Gallery and Clay Museum, situated in the clay-rich northern suburbs of Cape Town has since its establishment dedicated itself to preserving the legacy of South African ceramics. This non-profit organization (not to be confused with the wine farm in Stellenbosch) also continues to expand on the contemporary clay narrative by regularly hosting exhibitions, talks, workshops, and events dedicated to pottery.

2023 happens to be an important year for South African ceramics – it marks the centenary celebration of master potter Esias Bosch’s birth – and Rust-en-Vrede is reveling.  Bosch, who opened the Clay Museum in 1986 alongside Maarten Zaalberg, is considered by many to be the “father of South African creative ceramics”. Thus, it seemed fitting to start the year with an exhibition featuring a selection of Bosch ceramics consisting of pieces from the museum’s collection, as well as works on loan from private collectors and institutions such as the Iziko National Gallery. Esias’s children, Anton Bosch and Esra Bosch, dedicated to the art of creating ceramics themselves, were invited to exhibit alongside their father in The CUBE. [This particular cabinet in the Clay Museum is dedicated to selling smaller, highly collectible contemporary ceramics, alternating every two months.]

Esias Bosch Display | Rust-en-Vrede Clay Museum


Esias Bosch Display | Rust-en-Vrede Clay Museum

An exhibition highlight so far has been a public lecture, presented by Clay Museum aficionado and Ceramics Historian Dr. Ronnie Watt titled ‘Terra Cognito: A Celebration of Esias Bosch’ during the month of February. During this well-attended event, visitors had the opportunity to meet with various members of the Bosch family, including Anton Bosch, and sister Andree Bosch (researcher and co-author of a retrospective book about their father). The celebrations do not stop there, however, as members of the public can look forward to an Esias Bosch inspired tile-making workshop presented by family friend and ceramicist Lissa Claassens in the month of May. Some of Esias’s ginger jars from the Rust-en-Vrede Clay Museum collection also served as inspiration for an upcoming exhibition for the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival in Oudtshoorn curated by Donavan Mynhardt of Rust-en-Vrede Gallery. This group exhibition consists solely of clay creations (including ginger jars by Esias himself) and is titled ‘Aardling: Narratiewe in Klei / Kilnfolk: Narratives in Clay’. Other participating kilnfolk include the likes of Hennie Meyer, Christo Giles, Siyabonga Fani, Clementina van der Walt and Kate van Putten.

Apart from the current Bosch Centenary exhibitions, clay enthusiasts can look forward to viewing pottery and clay sculptures in an upcoming solo exhibition by Patsy Groll in the gallery in April, as well as a new CUBE exhibition featuring Afrocentric pottery by Fezile Ntshofu in the Clay Museum.

Ceramics have certainly been elevated from craft to high art material, with the resulting artworks being coveted by collectors and exhibited in galleries and museums all over the world. As we relish in our newfound connection to terra firma, we can look forward to this age-old art form taking up its much-deserved space in the realm of contemporary art.


KKNK Aardling | Fezile Ntshofu, Vessel I, Ceramic, 30 x 15 cm 

KKNK Aardling | Sandile B Cele, Zulu Goth Tea Pot, Ceramic,12 cm in Height


KKNK Aardling | Hennie Meyer | Sias se Kat en Eskom se Kat View 1, Glazed Ceramic, 19 x 17 x 9 cm each

Rust-en-Vrede Gallery and Clay Museum

Gallery Hours: Weekdays from 10h00 – 16h00, Saturdays from 9h00 until 13h00.
Works by Esias Bosch can be seen at Rust-en-Vrede Gallery and Clay Museum until 15 December 2023.

April Exhibitions:
The CUBE – Potter’s Work featuring Fezile Ntshofu – 11 April until 20 May 2023
Journey by Patsy Groll, Me and the Boiiis by Max Kuijers and Send My Love by Paul Senyol – 15 April – 20 May 2023 (Official opening: Saturday 22 April 2023
Aardling: Narratiewe in Klei / Kilnfolk: Narratives in Clay – Klein Karoo National Arts Festival – 1- 9 April 2023, Oudtshoorn

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