MAGDALENE ODUNDO: MASTER CERAMICIST
By Margaretta wa Gacheru
Published in Daily Nation, Nairobi, April 24, 2012
Her hand-sculpted vessels are worth tens of thousands of dollars, yet the world-acclaimed Kenyan ceramicist Magdelene Odundo refuses to talk about money. She’s more inclined to talk concepts rather than hard cash, aesthetics rather than rates of exchange, despite the fact that her vessels have been viewed, sold and placed in permanent collections, both public and private, all over the world.
In Kenya recently to attend the African Heritage 40thanniversary celebration and to receive an AH Lifetime Achievement Award, she’s one of the few Kenyans to have also received an O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire) from the Queen of England.
Born in Nairobi and raised in Mombasa, far away from Bunyale where her family originally comes from and where there’s a long tradition of women potters. Yet her knack for creating incredible pots might well be in the genes, since that might explain why/how this world renowned potter makes pots considered not simply utilitarian containers but refined works of art, vessels valued for their beauty, delicacy and grace.
The artist herself claims she is influenced far more by history and antiquity than genetics. The key to her creativity is inspiration, be it in the form of a book or a walk on the beach or a trip back home to Kenya from her current base in the UK.
“My work is often thematically conceived so that I’ll create a series of ceramics based on an idea that excited me,” says the senior professor at…. Where she supervises post-graduate students of ceramics.
”Occasionally, I will throw clay on a potter’s wheel, but all my [highly-prized] work is ‘hand-built’ and highly polished,” says Magdalene whose vessels all display a patina that has a sheen and distinctive glow that one might imagine is due to a glaze. But no, she says none of her vessels are glazed.
and ‘hand-built’—not made with a wheel and not glazed….just highly polished with a patina that is rarefied and distinct and delicate.
Part of the opening night proceedings…she came especially from south Hampton where she has her studio and teaches, is a professor…who lectures in…. and makes pots every chance she gets. Ie when she is not doing exhibitions all over the world
Accepting invitations to do exhibitions either in asia, Europe or America or Africa…
Her vessels reside in museums, galleries, universities all over the world, from the Smithsonian in dc. To the metropolitan in ny to the british museum in London and the …of toyko…. All over Europe and states…
With 2 agents represetnting her. One in santa Barbara, the other in Brussels:
She loves what she does, yet she didn’t start off as a potter but a painter trained at loreto convent limuru by great nun….then to Cambridge ollege of fine art…commercial art for a time, then back to school…royal academy and pots….also print making and…
I’ thought iw ould go into sculpture,,,, which in a sense, she did…sculpted pots each distinctive and delicate: which is why the one in the African heritage show is \under glass’ it is so precious…
She loves what she does…doesn’t get personal about her life only her art.
Her art very personal, immediate, refined just like the woman who has been coming back to Kenya regularly since 19856 when first exhibitied with carol and angela at un women’s decade exhibiton at African heritage.
Since then back back back…..collaboration between ku and uk school…
She loves to teach to share ideas, concepts, appraisal, appreiciation with post graducates…
Back to uk but will be back soon….otherwise to be in her studio