African womanhood, immortalized in bronze

April 22, 2023
Zizipho Poswa

“So much of my work honors the strength and resilience of the women in my life.”
– Zizipho Poswa, artist and co-founder, Imiso Ceramics

I first encountered South African ceramic artist Zizipho Poswa’s incredible, profoundly emotional work a few years ago at Cape Town’s most cutting-edge gallery, Southern Guild. Since then, I’ve followed her career with fascination and reverence. To say that I nearly burst with excitement upon hearing that Poswa would hold her first-ever solo US exhibit at Galerie56 in TriBeCa – a stunning Herzog & de Meuron-designed building – is an understatement. This inaugural show, iiNtsika zeSizwe, which translates from her native Xhosa language to “The Pillars of the Nation”, opens just three weeks from today, on May 16th. 

Never one to just scratch the surface, Poswa’s work dives deep, sifting through stereotypes about her culture and chronicling her evolving experiences as a Xhosa woman. Southern Guild, the groundbreaking gallery founded by my dear friends Trevyn and Julian McGowan in 2008, continues to echo and amplify Poswa’s pioneering spirit. The first African gallery to exhibit at major shows like Design Miami (in 2011) and Christie’s annual design auction in London (in 2015), Southern Guild is the go-to gallery for emerging artists and collectible African art you simply won’t find anywhere else. 

This show will be, in a word, spectacular. Zizipho Poswa is the most exciting, trailblazing young artist in South Africa today and to see a new body of her work in person is a rare privilege – please do join us if you can.

Honoring the divine feminine

As a child, Zizipho Poswa experienced the life-sustaining rituals of her Eastern Cape village – the physically grueling and often dangerous work that Xhosa women carried out daily, like gathering firewood and carrying towering, heavy buckets of water long distances to sustain their families. And yet, these feats of love and endurance are rarely recognized in traditionally patriarchal communities, not just in South Africa but throughout the continent. In this debut solo US exhibit, Poswa immortalizes the beauty and the burdens of these women in bronze, in a continuation of the conversation around women, strength, and nurture which the artist started with an earlier series, entitled Umthwalo – the Xhosa word for “load”. 

The power of the hand-crafted, sculptural artworks you’ll see at Galerie56 is palpable. Standing at varying heights of up to five feet tall, each of the seven pieces represents haphazard objects like a pile of sticks, barrels, fruits, and vegetables – the sources of sustenance that Xhosa women have carried on their heads for centuries – in richly textured, rounded forms with a patina and luster you only get with bronze. Standing before them, one imagines the physical and mental weight these women bear daily; their stories and strength reverberating like lightning off each structure.

Accompanying the exhibit, you’ll see a series of photographs depicting Poswa and others in their own act of bearing “umthwalo” back in the Eastern Cape village that has inspired so much of her work. 

“To me, the practice of [carrying] ‘umthwalo’ signifies the balancing act African women play in both traditional and modern society, and their resilience and generosity, which so often go unspoken,” Poswa explains. “It is an immense honor for me to convey the power and capacity of the women in my community to an international audience.”

Symbols of strength

The unacknowledged contribution of African women is a source of deep frustration at ROAR AFRICA. Our Women’s Empowerment Retreats, which take place in a different African country each year, support initiatives smashing through glass ceilings. These incredibly impactful retreats are ROAR AFRICA’s way of adding our voice to the rising chorus demanding change, recognition, and respect across our home continent. Poswa’s transcendent sculptures are a physical manifestation of the love, care, fortitude, and dignity that radiates off these women, the true pillars of every African nation.

Please join us in supporting Zizipho Poswa’s extraordinary US debut, iiNtsika zeSizwe, dedicated to her mother, opening on May 16th at Galerie56 in New York City. Words cannot describe the magnificence that awaits us. You need to see it with your own eyes… and we sincerely hope you do. 


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