NDEBELE PORCELAIN TEA SET DESIGNED BY PETER MTHOMBENI
By: Judas Makwela, Junior Curator. DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History
The DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History (DNMCH) houses several diverse cultural heritage collections. One of these cultural heritage aspects that caught my attention and interest was Ndebele art, demonstrated by colorful wall paintings. When visitors enter our Museum, they are warmly welcomed by similar-looking fascinating Ndebele wall paintings or murals. This article focuses on a unique Ndebele design porcelain tea set in the Museum’s collection, designed and made by ceramic artist Peter Mthombeni in the 1990s. This tea set is currently displayed at the DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History as part of the “Objects with Stories” exhibition.
Stylistic influences of European and African art and design are merged in Mthombeni’s Ndebele tea set. The decorations and design are the African Ndebele component of the tea set, while the materials that were used to make the set as well as the style are European. The tea set was inspired by the Ndebele kraal with its round and square houses. It consists of a wooden tray, decorated with geometric patterns, a porcelain tea pot (the main square house) and two cups (rondavels) with ceramic imitation thatch roofs (lids). The entrance post consists of a covered sugar bowl and a covered milk jug.
Peter Mthombeni managed to incorporate both European and African art and style to produce this Ndebele porcelain tea set during the 1990s. The interesting part about this unique tea set is that one needs time to examine each individual part, before recognising which part is the tea pot, cups, sugar bowl or milk jug. When I initially looked at the tea set, I thought it was a model of Ndebele homestead. I was later introduced to it as a tea set. At DITSONG: Museums of South Africa we are proud to curate, preserve, and exhibit such a valuable cultural heritage collection.
DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History, “Objects with Stories” exhibition: Ndebele porcelain tea set, designed by Mr Peter Mthombeni. Collection Accession Number: HG 497791/1=12.
Photographs by Judas Makwela (Junior Curator), DNMCH