Mmegi Online :: The atypical ceramicist
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Last Updated
Friday 27 May 2016, 11:15 am.
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The atypical ceramicist

Pottery has always been significant to Botswana culture and synonymous with women. One rare and talented 35-year-old man based in Kopong, Emmanuel Senamolela, has marked a break from traditional techniques with his unique style. Mmegi Staffer MOMPATI TLHANKANE sat down with the potter to inquire about his long learnt technique
By Mompati Tlhankane Fri 26 Feb 2016, 17:35 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: The atypical ceramicist








The emergence of studio pottery in Britain in the early 20th century changed the field of ceramics forever. The movement, originally influenced by art pottery, the arts and crafts movement later gave birth to British studio ceramicists like Lucie Rie who took the ceramic movement to another level.

Locally, the art of ceramic is not done but many people but Emmanuel Senamolela from Mmankgodi decided to stand head and shoulders above the rest and do the extraordinary. His throwing on the wheel technique has won him many accolades including the best ceramic award at the Thapong Artist of the Year Awards (TAYA) last year.

When Arts and Culture visited Thapong this week, Senamolela was quick to show us some his latest works. He said he has always loved art from a young age. “I was inspired by my mother,. She decorated Setswana huts and I used to help her to mix clay and cow dung,” he said.

After failing to progress to higher education, Senamolela got a job as a pottery assistant at Camphill in Otse in 2003 until 2007 when he moved to the UK to explore more about ceramics. He came back after a year brimming with  knowledge and ready to take on the world of ceramics.  “I learnt slip casting and more about the throwing on the wheel technique,” he said.

Senamolela said he struggled after returning to Botswana because he did not have the machinery to continue his work. “I was losing my knowledge because as an artist you have to be hands-on. So, I ended up working part time for some company,” he said.

It was not until

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2014 when he finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. The Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture through the Youth Development Fund bankrolled his company,Art Discovery and Ceramics with P100,000.

Senamolela was passionate about his dream, hence he immediately acquired the potter’s wheel and kiln machine, both used for throwing and firing respectively.

“That was not enough. I want to raise money to buy a pug mill and blender machine,” he said.

Despite having no higher education qualifications in art, Senamolela has workshopped his throwing on the wheel technique to art teachers in secondary schools. He has also worked with Junior Achievement Botswana. He has conducted a workshop on potter’s wheel based on throwing, trimming and the use of electric kiln. “I also demonstrated the same technique to University of Botswana Bachelor of Education students, “ he said.  Going forward, Senamolela said his dream was to have a school specialising in ceramics.

 “There is no school for ceramics in Botswana, so I want that to change,” he said.

He said one of his challenges is that his studio is still at home. “I struggle for exposure and working alone also makes my job difficult,” he said. Senamolela said it was difficult to find experts in the ceramics field. He said he joined Thapong last year and then won the award for the best in ceramics in TAYA 2015. Senamolela said he was positive because Batswana supported him by buying his products.

He said MYSC bought his award-winning product from last year and they have ordered another.  “This year, I will compete for the President’s Day celebration awards,” he said.

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