Ubuntu Manifest: Decolonising Research & Curatorial Practice in Ceramics

Gers, Wendy Anne (2019) Ubuntu Manifest: Decolonising Research & Curatorial Practice in Ceramics. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

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Abstract

This thesis is concerned with engendering new knowledge in the understanding, appreciation, and experience of modern and contemporary ceramics. It focusses on two recent creative outputs. The initial, Scorched Earth: 100 Years of Southern African Potteries (2016), is a scholarly publication, and the latter, Post-colonialism? (2016/2017), is a socially-engaged international exhibition, held at the Benyamini Contemporary Centre in Tel Aviv, Israel. These research projects span different disciplines, including art and design history, worker’s history, post-colonial and curatorial studies. They engage with diverse research methods, including critical scholarship and curatorial research. In spite of their different origins, these projects are unified by a specific geo-political and ideological trope - settler colonialism - and a self-reflexive socially engaged methodology, ubuntu.

Responding to the dearth of critical scholarship on commercial, popular, and tourist ceramics on the African sub-continent, Scorched Earth surveys 32 potteries located in South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, and Lesotho that produced industrial artware between 1880 and 1980. This is the first substantial scholarly reference text in this field and has produced ongoing changes in both South African museum collection policies, exhibition practices, and alterations in the art market.

Post-colonialism? explored settler colonialism in a political environment characterised by ongoing oppression and gross human rights abuse. The exhibition spoke out against the occupation of Palestine and other annexed territories. As the first major politically-engaged international ceramics exhibition in Israel, it has contributed significantly to the local ceramics scene and has been recognised as one of the ten most significant Israeli exhibitions of 2017. The project has also been the subject of international debate about art practices in Israel, the cultural boycott, and contemporary socially engaged ceramics practices.

This thesis surveys decolonising research in art and curatorial practice with specific reference to Israel and South Africa; regions characterised by harsh settler colonial regimes. It presents ubuntu as a moral philosophy and component of self-reflexive methodology for research and curatorial projects. The term cryrator is advanced as constituting a component of curatorial praxis in conflict zones. The thesis encourages new ways of thinking on how to historicise, de-westernise, and decolonise knowledge.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions: Collections > Theses
Depositing User: Klaire Purvis-Shepherd
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2019 11:03
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2019 10:43
URI: http://sure.sunderland.ac.uk/id/eprint/10870

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