Andile Dyalvane, Imiso Ceramics

Take a seat at the ancestral table of Andile Dyalvane

This celebrated South African ceramic artist’s latest solo show is a trifecta tour that traverses the globe. 

Andile Dyalvane’s solo launched in his hometown of Ngobozana in the Eastern Cape, then moved into the Southern Guild gallery in Cape Town (where it will run from 10 December until February 2021). The show’s final destination is the Friedman Benda gallery, New York, in June. But although the exhibition is on the move, it invites viewers to be stationary – to consider the process of sitting and discussing, contemplating and imagining. 

The show is titled iThongo (ancestral dreamscape). It consists of 18 sculptural ceramic stools, chairs and benches arranged in a circular shape in the traditional Xhosa ceremonial manner.

For Andile, this loyal celebration of Xhosa culture can be seen as another sure-footed step in his ongoing journey. As a member of the OoJola clan, he famously makes regular trips back to his hometown – a ritual that, more often than not, informs his creations. Andile’s process is rooted in – perhaps even seated on – his heritage. His creative output, as witnessed by those who’ve seen him at work, is executed with sincerity and conviction. 

In all humbleness, I wanted to help those at home to see themselves – how worthy and great they all truly are. Showing this collection first in Ngobozana was essential for restorative healing – for the sake of my ancestors and every person in my village. When we gather together to remember our origins and join together in song and celebration, we reconnect to our deepest dreams and proud truths. Camagu!

The forms of iThongo’s pieces are curved and spherical – unmistakably organic. Here are echoes of the kraal enclosures in which animals are kept, as well as the rondavel dwellings in which the Xhosa traditionally live. Like many other belief systems, Xhosa spiritual practices invoke circular geometry as a way of enabling the free exchange of energy. This is how stories are told, rituals are performed and knowledge is gathered. 

The title of the collection, then, refers to the medium through which messages are transmitted from the ancestors (a central idea in Andile’s process and personal beliefs). It describes an energetic link between the past, the present and the future. 

From his dreamscape, Andile plucks symbols, visual tools employed to impart meaning more effectively. These symbols are stamped throughout the iThongo series of sculptures: emerging from, and dissolving into, the clay surfaces. 

Andile has created an accompanying document to explain the significance of each symbol, which ranges from depictions of herbs and trees to drums and cattle. 

iThongo is at once arresting. But, it’s only once you’ve spent time contemplating the work that its layers – and depth – are fully revealed. 

iThongo by Andile Dyalvane runs at the Southern Guild gallery from 10 December 2020 to 5 February 2021. | @andiledyalvane

WORDS & PRODUCTION: J-P de la Chaumette
PHOTOGRAPHY: Adriaan Louw and supplied.

Latest stories in Culture.