The Stray Bulletin

Arts and culture in East Africa and beyond

Blackware, smoked pottery. November 27, 2009

Filed under: Art reviews — Sophie Alal @ 1:17 pm
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Art Review by Sophie Alal

Published in The East African October 5th, 2009.

Elephant's Ears, by Tony Bukenya

Elephant's Ears, by Tony Bukenya

Smoked pottery has been made for centuries in East Africa, as any visitor to the Uganda Museum or British Museum can confirm. It is a subtle and unique style of making ceramics that has evolved into what contemporary practitioners have dubbed “blackware” in modern art.

This magnificent finish to ceramics is obtained by first coating the clay body of the piece in slip and burnishing it with smooth stones. It is then fired in an oxygen-rich kiln to harden. The unique step in blackware is that a second firing in an oxygen-poor atmosphere produces dark smoke patterns, which can be surprisingly expressive.