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(Un)Earthed – Exploring contemporary ceramic art in South Africa

Of all forms of visual art, ceramics are perhaps some of the most ubiquitous. Stretching over millennia and geographic expanses, clay has been exhumed and shaped into culture since the dawn of mankind. Whether it be for artistic and decorative expression, as functional objects, or as artifacts of spiritual practice, ceramic pieces signify identities. These objects, as such, become a nexus between the earth and being human; as much as man has shaped clay, ceramics have shaped the human race. Yet, whilst durable enough to carry buried messages across empires, the substance of fired clay is at once fragile. Handling, transportation, and indeed preservation of ceramic objects require intentional care. The interpretation of ceramic artifacts excavated from the past is often read in ‘cracked code’; many vessels dating from eras past exist only in part, due to their brittle composition. An analogy, perhaps, for history itself? This exhibitioneseeks to draw out clues about the representation of our collective South African identities, past and present – whether it be through the domestic, the sacred, or symbols of social allegiance.

CHIEF CURATOR | Marijke van Velden

Marijke Van Velden is a Stellenbosch-based artist, educator, curator and generally curious being.

Marijke holds degrees in Fine Arts and Illustration (BA, MPhil Cum Laude) from Stellenbosch University (2008, 2012). In 2009 she won the Sasol New Signatures award and continues to take part in group exhibitions, while lecturing Drawing and design subjects. From 2022 to 2023 she served as the inaugural curator and creative manager at Oude Leeskamer.

Marijke approaches art-making in an intuitive and conceptual manner and is drawn to the contemplative physicality of art-making processes. As an avid collector and a believer in the importance of play, her work is often informed by the mediums she uses.

Van Velden has an interest in matters of social justice and equality, and aspires to impact the social landscape through what she makes.


Dlothi is a Fine Arts Final year (Hons) student at Stellenbosch University. While he completes his studies he is also gallery assistant at Oude Leeskamer Gallery and an assistant teacher at P.J Olivier Art Centre where he studied sculpture while at high school.

Dlothi is a sculptor who focuses on African art and the Basotho initiation ceremony, particularly with regards to the role it plays in shaping young men and the complex counter-role of women in the process. He has a special interest in the role of the mother-figure as the person who raised the men who enter the initiation schools. This is his first experience in an assistant curator role, and he is excited to engage with the skills he will learn, and the artists that he will work with.

Expertly curated by chief curator Maryke Van Velden and assistant curator pule.dlothi.73, (Un)Earthed features works by:

Wim Botha
Githan Coopoo
Madoda Fani courtesy of Southern Guild
Ceramic Matters
Lucinda Mudge Studio
Ben Orkin courtesy of WHATIFTHEWORLD
Marlene Steyn courtesy of SMAC Gallery
Maryke Van Velden

Large-scale images of the ceramic creations are shown in public spaces throughout Stellenbosch, while the physical pieces are exhibited at the Voorgelegen Museum in Dorp Street.

Visit for more information about the (Un)Earthed theme, exhibition map, artists, and artwork details.