Venda Pottery of Mukondeni | iinfo TZANEEN

Venda pottery is one of the most distinctive types of traditional South African craft art, perfect in its elegant simplicity. The eye-catching dark brown pots, decorated with red ochre and silver graphite from Venda’s Lalonde Mountains, look beautiful in every setting. Originally Venda pots served as low-tech “fridges”, as the thick clay keeps water fresh and cool. Today the pots are used mostly for decoration.
The Mukondeni region of northern Limpopo — on a dirt road halfway between Louis Trichardt and Giyani — is the heartland of Venda pottery-making. The women of Mukondeni make their pots in the traditional way, by gathering clay from the riverbed in the village, shaping the pots by hand, and baking them in a fireplace or a pit in the ground. 
The women of Mukondeni Pottery Village were trained by master potter Sarah Munyai, and today there are more than a dozen women making pots there. About 30 women create pottery at the nearby Mukondeni Pottery Factory.  
Flora Randela and the other women of Mukondeni Pottery Village make pots while sitting on the floor of their homes or outside under the trees, legs spread into a wide “V”. A small pot, which begins as a modest lump of clay on a plate, takes only about ten minutes for an expert potter to shape and carve with a traditional geometric pattern, ready to be fired and painted. Depending on their size and shape, the pots are decorated with stripes, stars, half-moons, or fish — a spiritual symbol of the region.
Mukondeni takes a bit of effort to visit: One must drive a few kilometres from Mbhokota Village on a remote, bumpy road. But the effort is worth it simply for the experience of arriving in the village and seeing the stacks of red, gray, and brown pots emerging upward out of the dust.  
Do not show up in this village without cash and plenty of space in your boot. The pots are irresistible and incredibly well priced, and after traveling such a long way it makes no sense to leave without at least four or five (the bigger, the better). By purchasing these pots, you are helping to sustain this incredibly valuable art form and the talented women (and their families) who practice it. 
Visitors are invited to try their own hand at shaping a pot at Mukondeni Pottery Village. The pot may not turn out perfectly, but the feel of this Venda clay between one’s own fingers is a sacred experience in its own right.
Mukondeni Pottery Village and Mukondeni Pottery Factory are located in Mashamba Village, Mukondeni. GPS coordinates: -23.255649, 30.104018. For more information on Mukondeni Pottery Village, contact Perseverance Ramatshekisa at 083 761 4455. For more information on Mukondeni Pottery Factory, contact Certinah Kasane at 076 873 5771. Note that Mukondeni is a remote area and will be easiest to find with the help of a local guide. Visits to Mukondeni can be arranged through Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge.

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