Beer plays an important role in the Zulu culture and it is traditionally made by the women in each community. This long history goes back to a romantic story about the well loved fertility Goddess Mbaba Mwana Waresa who ruled over rainbows, rain, agriculture and beer. In her quest for a mortal husband (because there were no suitors in heaven, where she lived) she tricked a handsome human who feel in love with her. This annoyed the immortals somewhat so she cleverly invented the art of beer making to unite the mortals with the Gods. And everyone lived happily ever after.
So move over Baccus and Dionysus this is the wholesome craft of a Goddess. In the Zulu Kingdom ‘umqombothi’ beer is traditionally made with sorghum, a type of millet grain, called ‘utshwala’. Loaded with vitamins, minerals and carbs and forms a nutritional part of the Zulu diet. Brewed in these large, iconic, round clay pots meticulously hand-crafted by the female members of the tribe communal beer drinking always formed part of spiritual and social gatherings. More about that just now.
The clay used to make these beer pots has been ethically sourced locally in Devon. While the Zulu potters use coils to make their vessels, Kinkatou hand throws each base individually on a wheel. After leaving it to dry for a couple of days a slip is poured over the pot and dries overnight. Both design houses have worked on a unique symmetrical design for this table lamp and once the clay has semi dried the surface becomes like leather and the tribal pattern can be hand carved using a wire loop tool to cut away the clay. Therefore leaving a groove which has no slip in it. A method known to the Western world as ‘sgraffito’ and to the Zulu’s as ‘amasumpa’. The piece is then bisque fired at 1000℃, that’s tremendously hot. A glaze is then applied, the heat is turned up for the second firing which lasts approximately 9-12 hours. The beer pots are also glazed on the inside to maximise stability and tension. They come in two glazes, an earthy green and a blue.
Once complete the beer pot moves into its final stages turning this traditional vessel into a sculptural art form, that’s practical too. It’s wired up and the shade is made. The drum shaped ‘Veld’ shade illustrates the ‘Valley of a Thousand Hills’ - The Heart of Zululand.
33cm H X 33cm D
CYLINDER DRUM LAMPSHADE
30cm H X 40cm D
Handmade in Britain.
Before we celebrate, may we return to the traditional aspect of a Zulu ceremony. First up the women who brewed the beer, skimmed the froth off the top and pour it on the ground, offering the ancestors and spirits the first share. The hostess then takes a sip, followed by the host. Everyone hopes that he is happy with his wife’s brew because only then can the rest of the community can drink and enjoy the festivities that follow. The men must remember to remove their hats as a mark of respect to Mbaba Mwana Waresa’s gift from the Gods.
With this collaboration we are celebrating this table lamp for all its earthy connection to history and modernity together with the marriage between textiles and raw clay. We hope it brings a robust raw beauty into your living space.
Please contact our design studio for more details and prices.