Zulu Pottery by Dr Elizabeth Perrill
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A brief history of and guide to contemporary Zulu Pottery

Long held as one of the most spiritually charged Zulu art forms, Zulu ceramics have entered the 21st century as a diversifying and vital art. From independent artists to craft cooperatives, Zulu Pottery examines the techniques and individuals continuing this great tradition.

Zulu Pottery provides readers with a brief history of Zulu ceramics and a guide to contemporary Zulu pottery.

Historically, Zulu beer pots have expressed local identities, as well as nationalism, during drinking ceremonies. Serving utshwala, traditional Zulu beer, is an important social and spiritual practice in Zulu culture and a beer pot is the most respectful vessel for this cultural drink. For this reason ceramics have weathered the storm of cultural and social changes through the 19th and 20th centuries.

Today Zulu pots sold in galleries aresymbols of an array of transforming cultural, national and artistic expression. Zulu Pottery provides an overview of this dynamic movement.


The author, Elizabeth Perrill, has researched Zulu pottery under many prestigious fellowships and curated exhibitions of Zulu ceramics. Her continuing research in rural and urban South Africa seeks to tie together the rich history and contemporary dynamism of Zulu ceramic traditions.



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Zulu Pottery focuses on contemporary ceramics from the northern half of KwaZulu-Natal, where ongoing traditions are kept alive, to the heart of Durban, where newer artists are transforming and innovating. Masters such as Nesta Nala – as well as a new generation of artists, including Jabu Nala and Clive Sithole – have travelled the world demonstrating the art of Zulu pottery. Readers will discover the connections between:

  • Social History, Cultural Context, and Pot Types

  • Preparation, Construction, and Decoration

  • Firing and Finishing

  • Foundational Pieces and Foundational Potters

  • Evaluating Zulu Pottery: Creating and Selling in Contemporary Markets

  • Future Generations of Zulu Ceramics

  • Historical Collections and Sources for Zulu Pottery

about the author - Dr Elizabeth Perrill

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Dr Elizabeth Perrill is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA. She has been documenting Zulu ceramics for over seven years, researched in KwaZulu-Natal as a Fulbright-Hays Fellow, and curated multiple exhibitions of contemporary Zulu pottery. Perrill holds a Masters and PhD in Art History from Indiana University, USA. She studied isiZulu during her doctoral studies and has been documenting the successes, struggles, and innovations of Zulu potters since 2002. Perrill’s work has been acknowledged through the support of several prestigious fellowships: a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship, a Social Science Research Council Fellowship, and an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship. Her work on the exhibitions Ukucwebezela: To Shine and An Homage to Nesta Nala have helped bring attention to this historically and spiritually significant art form.