About This Artwork

Gwembe Tonga

Container for Water or Beer (Inongo), Mid–/late 20th century

Terracotta and pigment
39.4 x 41.3 cm (15 1/2 x 16 1/4 in.)

Gift of Keith Achepohl, 2005.258

The Gwembe Tonga live to the east of the Shona and share with them similar pottery techniques. Particularly gifted Gwembe Tonga potters are specialists who attribute their talents to selection by an equally skilled ancestor. Like many in Africa, they focus attention on making water containers, which must be thin walled and symmetrical if they are to be borne atop the head while filled with several gallons of water. Because it is among the most public of pots, a water or beer container’s appearance is closely scrutinized. This vessel is embellished with bold zigzag bands. The design was rendered with quick lines that skip rhythmically along the clay, emphasizing its muscular proportions.

— Modified from permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, For Hearth and Altar: African Ceramics from the Keith Achepohl Collection, Dec. 3, 2005–Feb. 20, 2006, cat. 119.

Publication History

Kathleen Bickford Berzock, For Hearth and Altar: African Ceramics from the Keith Achepohl Collection (The Art Institute and Yale University Press, 2005), p. 185.

Ownership History

Kim Sachs Gallery, Bellevue, Johannesburg, by 1993; sold to Douglas Dawson Gallery, Chicago, Ill., 1993; sold to Keith Achepohl, Iowa City, Iowa, by 2005; given to the Art Institute, 2005.

Interpretive Resources

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