23 March 2012 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Unusual art in uBombo

The use of pottery as an effective therapeutic tool for supporting children who have endured traumatic experiences.

Sometimes art is more than just art; it’s a way of improving people’s lives, in many different ways. This was made clear to me once again while travelling in Zululand. I was able to visit a very special project in the village of uBombo.

The uBombo Children’s Care Village (supported by the Clover Mama Afrika initiative) provides a warm, nurturing home for about 16 vulnerable children from the area; children whose parents or caregivers have died or can no longer look after them, and children who have survived abuse and neglect. The privately funded centre works with the Department of Social Development to ensure that these kids are safe and cared for.

Set in a sprawling garden, with lawns, shady trees, a chicken coop and a vegetable patch, the centre also has on-site pottery.

I was blown away by the sheer artistry of the work produced – intricate and original designs with superb, lustrous colouring.

I was expecting it to produce quite basic earthen-ware. Instead, I was blown away by the sheer artistry of the work produced – intricate and original designs with superb, lustrous colouring. The three potters linked to the centre are Joseph Gumede, Bernard Mahlinza and Lindiwe Thlabisa. The first 2 are self-taught and they in turn taught Lindiwe.

The children who live at the home also do pottery lessons, and are closely guided by their mentors to develop their creativity.

The idea of developing the pottery centre was always part of the vision of the home's founder. While Dawn Irons recognised that pottery is a way for children to express themselves and gain self-worth, she also saw that it has the potential to help the uBombo Children's Care Village become self-sufficient.

She has been proven right on both fronts. The pottery is an effective therapeutic tool for supporting children who have endured traumatic experiences. It teaches them to express themselves by working with their hands and gives them a sense of purpose, all in an environment where the children feel supported and encouraged.

Funds raised by sale of pottery also now contribute to meeting the centre’s running costs. Most of the pottery is sold through friends of Care Village, or bought by visitors from local hotels and game lodges in the area.

Filled with completed works and work in progress, the studio represents a source of revenue for the centre and a means of self-expression for the artists and the children they teach. 

I found it to be a place of beauty, hope, colour and creativity, where the talent of the potters and their students comes vividly to life.

Category: Arts & Entertainment


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