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Gallery Ezakwantu

African Art  - Art Africain - Tribal Art -  菲洲艺术 - Afrikanische Kunst


Central and Southern African Tribal Art

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African Beer Pots - Water Vessels


Afrikanischer Biertopf - Afrikanische Bier Töpfe


Pots de Bière Africaines





Gallery Ezakwantu specializes in aesthetically pleasing, authentic, old pots and vessels from South East and Southern Africa, that include examples of the Lozi, Makonde, Ndau, Nyakusa, Nyanja, Shona, South Sotho, Tambuka, Tsonga and Zulu peoples. Scroll down to view our current collection of African clay pots.



Shona - Karanga - Ndau Pots






Shona - Karanga - Roswi pot 'A'


'Shona' inhabit in a vast area that includes parts of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. They in fact fall under the Karanga and Roswi groups of people, the separate entities made up of numerous individual tribes - (not one named Shona). Generally the groups have similar looking pottery, with regional differences. In the interests of 'attributing' a pot to a tribe, we have referred to this group of pots as Shona - Karanga / Roswi. The pot above (A) came from an early colonial context, a period when few were collected.




Shona - Karanga - Roswi pot 'B'


Larger pots as above (B), were used to store water and or ferment beer in. This one has a fantastic surface, is thick, heavy, OLD and was field collected during the 1980's. 





Shona - Karanga - Roswi pot 'C'


The large pot above and below (C), was used for refrigeration. Bark fibre was woven over the surface. When soaked or drenched in water, cooling occurred through evaporation.




Shona - Karanga - Roswi beer pot 'C'


A fine example of a related pot was published in 'The Traditional Art of Zimbabwe' - Page 55.





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Makonde Grain Storage Pots




Makonde Grain Storage Pot 'A'


The Maconde live on both sides of the Mozambique and Tanzanian border in East / South-East Africa. Their pottery was extensively field collected over a five year period. None of these pots have been coming onto the market from the field since. Above (Pot A) is  a large example with typically fine incised decoration.




Makonde Grain Storage Pot 'B'


Our gallery purchased some of the finest examples that surfaced and stored them away. They are all large, heavy robust pots. Above (B) is the largest, an extremely fine example with distinctive design nearly to its base.




Makonde Grain Storage Pot 'C'


Pot 'C' - above and below, is remarkable in that it includes a wedged disk shaped outer extremity the runs the entire circumference of the pot.




Makonde Grain Storage Pot 'C' - Top View





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Nyakusa - Tanzania / Zambia

Grain / Water Storage Containers




Nyakusa Pot 'A'


The Nyakusa live adjacent to the Makonde, in the fertile mountains of southern Tanzanian and northern Malawi. Historically they were called Ngonde or Nyakusa by the competing colonial powers of England and Germany. Above and below, thinly made pots from the region. 




Nyakusa Pot 'B'


European travelers were impressed with their cleanliness and neatness. Joseph Thomson visited in 1881 and wrote: It seemed a perfect Arcadia.... Imagine a perfectly level plain, from which all weeds, garbage, and things unsightly are carefully cleared away. Dotted here and there are a number of immense shady sycamores with branches almost as large as a separate tree. Every few spaces are charmingly neat circular huts, with conical roofs, and walls hanging out all round with the clay worked prettily into rounded bricks, and daubed symmetrically with spots. The grass thatching is also very neat. The 'tout ensemble' renders these huts a place in any nobleman's garden. A missionary is quoted: We wandered through magnificent banana groves and elegant, cleanly built huts of our Nyakyusa. When one contemplates the people it appears as though they celebrated a festival every day. They look as clean as though they knew no work. One sees women and children picking fallen fruit from the ground while men and young people walk mostly hand in hand.... The entire image gives a charming picture, really more lovely than words can express. Another wrote: One could imagine being in a garden on Lake Geneva.




Nyakusa Pot 'C'


Similarly, Nyakusa pots are symmetrical, finely executed and exhibit detailed work of intentional precision. Fine incised lines add strength, often decorating the surface of the entire base. Red ochre or paint is used to add decoration to the upper portion, with symmetry reminiscent to that described of their hut paintings.




Nyakusa Pot 'D'


Our Nyakusa pots are absolute gems and not to be found any longer. At the same time, the distance and cost to travel to the region has become prohibitive. The same pertains to our Makonde pots, as well as the Tambuka and Nyanja that follow. 





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Nyanja Water Pots




Nyanja Pot 'A' - Mozambique


The Nyanja live along the east side of lake Malawi in Mozambique and the southern section of the lake inside Malawi. The Nyanja pots above and below were collected in Mozambique during the early 2000's. Example A (above) is unusually large. 



Nyanja Pot 'B' - Mozambique


Nyanja pots were used to hold water. Interaction between water and clay brought calcium deposits to the exterior surface. Chemical efflorescent lead to their striking visual effect. As with the Makonde, Nyakusa and Tambuka pots, they no longer appear on the market.





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Tambuka Pot - Malawi




Tambuka Pot 'A'


The Tambuka reside in the region of confluence of Northern Malawi, North-eastern Zambia and Southern Tanzania. The high sheen found on the darkened sections of this pot is a superficial addition added prior to firing. Lead graphite was rubbed onto the darkened surface section. As the pot cooled from firing, it was burnished repeatedly with a sticky bark liquid to obtain the lead graphite effect.  The fine example of a rarely seen pot was collected on the Tanzanian side of the complex, not far from the Nyakusa population.





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Nguni Colonial Vessels




Nguni Colonial Vessel 'A'


The two clay colonial era pots above and below came to us within an old Southern African collection of artifacts that dated to the 1930's. The incised decorations suggest a north Nguni attribution, supported further by the addition of clay chain links that point to a Tsonga / Shangaan  origin.




Nguni Colonial Vessel 'B'


The form of these pots would have assisted in the cooling of water, by directing evaporation.





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Painted Status Pots

North Sotho - Tsonga Shangaan - South Sotho



North Sotho Pot 'A"


Small to medium sized pots were owned by the North Sotho, Tsonga - Shangaan, South Sotho and Venda.  Painted examples were kept in the home for prestige and they often appear on the ground or being held in group initiation photographs.




South Sotho Painted Pot


Above and below are old painted Sotho and North Sotho pots from South Africa. North Sotho and Tsonga - Shangaan pots are similarly painted, but those show here, examples A & B, were collected from North Sotho people.




North Sotho Pot 'B'


Informants advise traditional healers or Sangoma's are known to make use of painted pots when healing.



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Mafwe Pots - Kwando River


Pottery of the Cuando River


Angola - Namibia - Zambia




Mafwe Cultural Group - National Achieves of Namibia - Windhoek - Circa 1909


The Mafwe people live along the Kwando river (Cuando) at the point where Angola, Namibia and Zambia come together. As the river flows south, it becomes the Linyanti (passing through the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve) and then the Chobe (passing through the Chobe National Park). The Chobe river (Kwando - Linyanti) enters the Zambezi near Kanzangula. In full flood, the Okavango Delta fed by the Okavango River, flows across the Selinda Spillway into the Linyanti, thereby connecting three river systems and its regional tribal people, resulting in a mix of culture.



At first, Mafwe pots look like what most label Lozi or Barotse. However Mafwe pots have attributes that differ, which may include zigzags, triangles, chevron patterns and / or dots. The lip of Mafwe pot necks are often flared outwards and constructed more solidly. (above - below)




Mafwe pots have been published before, but incorrectly… Above - the cover of
Smashing POTS - Feats of Clay from Africa - Nigel Barley - British Museum.  The inside cover reads: Pedestal cup and stirrup-necked pot. Sotho people, Lesotho (see p.26). The taller example is NOT from Lesotho - nor is it Sotho. Page 26 reaffirms the cover error when summarizing the three as; Sotho people, Lesotho. The pot is from the Mafwe region.  





Additional errors occur on page 152 (right). The caption reads: Left Elongated stoppered vessel with zigzag decoration of red and buff slip. Center: Cylindrical, ridged vessel of yellow clay with red slip. Sotho people, Lewanika, Lesotho.  Firstly, the layout of zigzag patterns on the left pot, as well as the center example's thick neck ring indicate Mafwe origen. Secondly - there is no such place as Lewanika, Lesotho. Lewanika was the paramount chief of the Lozi (Litunga) between 1878 and 1916. However, the mention of Lewanika moves regional attribution closer to the Mafwe area.  Page 34 (left) attributes a cup to the Lozi saying: ... and a mug of yellow clay with a pattern of red triangles. Lozi people, Zambia. Lozi is closer to the target, but incorrect. Carved wooden and ceramic mugs were found all along the Namibian border with Angola, inspired by the late 19th and early 20th century German presence. The Caprivi Strip itself (Caprivizipfel), named after German chancellor Leo von Caprivi, intersects the Mafwe at the Kwando river. Often this area, as well as people residing in Katima Mulilo, is tossed off as Lozi. Lozi is a term often used for a collection of 'unrelated' tribal people. Mafwe should NOT be included. Our pots follow.




Mafwe Pot 'A'


This is a large Mafwe water pot, used to cool water or hold beer, with characteristic triangular decorations. It was owned by Bikwe Catherine Maungulo, born on Singobeka island (then Namibia - now Botswana), was the owner . Her home was not far from the paramount chief's residence.




Mafwe Pot 'B'


This Mafwe pot was also collected in Namibia and is our largest. It is decorated with floral scenes, similar as those attributed to Lozi, however its pronounced neckline is adorned with a mix of trademark Mafwe chevrons and triangles.




Mafwe Pot 'B'


Young children (left) and the previous owner (right) offer testament to this Mafwe pots terrific size.




Mafwe Pot 'C'


This smaller Mafwe pot exhibits zigzag and chevron patterns, triangles, as well as a ring line accentuated with red circles or dots. The pot was collected from the Zambian Mafwe population, a distance east of the Kwando River.





Mafwe Pot 'C'


Zambia gained independence in 1964. Kenneth Kaunda was its first president and ruled until 1991. He was a popular figure during his first 20 years of rule, so much so that people often applied his initials (KK) to objects. The act was measured as patriotic and served as status.



Mafwe Pot 'D'


This pot was collected in Libingi village, located in the Senanga district of Zambia, approximately 100 klms from the main Mafwe population. It is small and does not represent water pot dimensions typical to any area or people.




Mafwe Pot 'D'


When asked, the owner said she was Lozi. When pressed, she acknowledged she was Kololo. The Kololo are a northern Tswana (Bechwana) group who until overthrown, ruled the Lozi. Over time they became comfortable attributing themselves as Lozi.




Mbunda - Luvale Pot


This pot was also purchased in Libingi village. The owner Mr. Ilwange Pizo, said he purchased it in Kalabo. Kalabo potters were both Mbunda and Luvale in origin.





Mr. Ilwange Pizo - South Western Zambia






Mafwe Woman - Complements Gallery Ezakwantu





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Sotho Clay Pots - Sotho Pottery


Maritsŏana (Marie-tswana)


Beer Pots - Grain Pots - Water Pot





Galerie Ezakwantu has collected pots from the Ba Sotho in Lesotho for many years. Pots found in one village were usually of a certain style. When a variant surfaced it represented an object that had travelled into the area from potters working outside the immediate surrounds.




South Sotho Pot 'A'


Young women learned the art of pottery from older women of the village. Pots collected at the highest elevations of Lesotho often resembled one another. This was due to a lack of clay in their area and the need to purchase pots from makers living lower down the valleys near the clay source.




South Sotho Pot 'B'


Large pots like the example above were used to brew beer. The Sotho referred to this object type as an Eqho or Nkho. The decoration around a large pots upper rim was added to increase strength, needed to counter the force of liquid placed inside.





From the 1920's iron bands may have been added - the idea obtained working in South African mines. Many eqho were found secured to the ground for safety (children) and security (theft) reasons.




South Sotho Pot 'C' (left) and 'D' (right)


Smaller Eqhos are quite scarce and proved to be area specific. Plastic containers have replaced clay pots brewing function. Old pots became laundry bags - cupboard supports or even ladders.




South Sotho Pots - Sold as a Trio 'E'


Smaller Sotho pots were used to drink beer like a very large cup and called Maritsŏana (Marie-tswana). The three examples above (E) are offered as a trio.




South Sotho Pot 'F'


The age of Basotho pots may be estimated by colouration. A pinkish terracotta tone is the natural colour of the pre-fired clay. Pot (F) was approximately twenty years old at the time of collection. It retained a lighter coloration as though unused, but used it was and in fact it darkened considerably since manufacture.




South Sotho Pot 'G'


Black marks or 'fire marks' on this and other Sotho pots are caused when it leans against another during firing, or when touching the ground while cooling. Oxygen is prevented from returning to the clay during the cooling process.




South Sotho Pot 'H'


Over the years oils, soot, grime and beer residue build a darkened patina on the surface of older pots. We are comfortable saying that some of oldest examples shown here exceed 100 years. Example (H) must be over 80 years (if not 100 +).





Interesting vessels of all sorts come out of the woodwork when searching for old examples! The girl to the right may have thought we were after old rubbish, regardless that her offering retains artistic merit. 




South Sotho Pot 'I'


This pot (I) and the one to follow (J) are very large and extremely old Maritsoana. Both are large enough to have been used to ferment beer. Note that example (K) includes a clay neck ring to increase strength.




South Sotho Pot 'J'


Sotho pot (J) has a surface that suggests some vessels may have survived hundreds of years.





Beer aside - Maritsoana pots were also used to fetch water from rivers and / or store grain. When the pot above was purchased - the owner emptied the contents.




South Sotho Pot 'K'


Pot (K) and the two that follow (L & M) are fine examples of Sotho symmetry.




South Sotho Pot 'L'




South Sotho Pot 'M'





The BaSotho are congenial people. Young and old are all too willing to sell old pots for good money, as pots have nearly fallen out of use / fashion.




South Sotho Pot 'N'


Striking repairs are made to pots with cracks. We have seen them wired, candle waxed, painted, stitched with rope and one with an inserted layer of iron.




South Sotho Pot 'O'


The character of a pot is often heightened by a repair.




South Sotho Pot 'P'


So-called 'beeswax' was traditionally used, but not obtained from bees, but the nests of hornets.




South Sotho Pot 'Q'




South Sotho Pot 'R'




South Sotho Pot 'S'




South Sotho Pot 'T'




South Sotho Pot 'U'


This large Basotho pot is the most heavily restored African clay vessel we have encountered. It has 14 rope stitches tied into drilled 28 holes, all authentically tribally inserted.




South Sotho Pot 'U' - Detail


Paint used to seal the drilled holes and stitching was removed to gain the final appearance.





We hope you have enjoyed viewing our African pot display.


Feel free to contact us to ascertain the price and/or size of a pot. Airport to airport shipping charges depend on the size of the shipping cartons, exchange rates, destinations, etc. We include all delivery charges up to your nearest international airport, as well as professional packaging and insurance. Each pot is filled with polystyrene chips, bubble wrapped, then floated in additional chips within a double walled export carton. All shipments arrive in fine condition, as the packaging more then doubles each objects original volume. You are kept well informed by email of the tracking details and progress of your shipment by our highly capable shippers. We have exported hundreds of examples worldwide.

Click on this link to learn more about the Sotho.   



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About Pottery


The invention of pottery is a highly significant cultural phenomenon in human history. Although the role of early ceramics in different areas of the world is still a matter of debate, the emergence of pottery in a culture has often been linked with important changes in lifestyle, such as sedentary living and the emergence of food production. Although pottery may have had different functions in different communities, and at distinct times in the same communities, it obviously had, and still has, a major impact on people’s lives. Ceramics have not only assumed a utilitarian role, for instance in the preparation and storage of food and beverages, but clay pots and figurines have also served ritual and medical purposes (Barnett & Hoopes 1995). In sub-Saharan Africa pottery is invested with great symbolic importance. The craft is surrounded with rituals and prohibitions and several steps in the production sequence serve as a metaphor for interpreting and acting upon certain facets of human experience. People make metaphoric use of pottery vocabulary to refer to transformations from wet to dry, soft to hard, raw to cooked, natural to cultural, impure to pure through the operation of heat, to mark isolation and destruction, to designate bodily cavities, or to discuss concepts like spirit, conception, and essence (Barley 1994; Gosselain 1999; Jacobson-Widding 1992). Moreover, ‘potting traditions are “sociotechnical aggregates”, an intricate mix of inventions, borrowed elements, and manipulations that display an amazing propensity to redefinition by individuals and local groups’ (Gosselain 2000). A potter’s technical behavior thus leaves room for choices both along functional and social or symbolic lines, creating multifaceted associations between technological styles and social identity.












Galerie Ezakwantu

Southern African Tribal Art - African Art 


Central and Southern African Tribal Art


Art Africain      頂级菲洲艺术品中心     Afrikanische Kunst     Außereuropäische Kunst




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