May 28, 2022
Some of the clay moldings done by Magdalene Odundo
  • A Kenyan who quit her job in Nairobi to chase her dream of molding clay is now reaping the fruits of her labour.

    Magdalene Odundo’s artwork is set to premiere at the prestigious Venice Biennale exhibition curated by Cecilia Alemani in April.

    Prior to that, the artist’s work, which is showing in Body Vessel Clay: Black Women, Ceramics and Contemporary Art at Two Temple Place in London, is also slated to be showcased at A Matter of Life and Death at Thomas Dane Gallery in Naples beginning Tuesday, March 29.

    Her rise to international fame has, however, not been easy.

    Some of the clay moldings done by Magdalene Odundo.
    The Art Society

    Odundo was born in Kenya and joined the workforce at an advertising agency in Nairobi where she worked as a trainee layout artist.

    In 1971, however, she decided to chase her dreams and enrolled at the Cambridge School of Art. She transferred to West Surrey College of Art and Design where she enrolled for a degree in ceramics, printmaking and photography.

    “There’s much more humanity to clay than in other art forms, where you think first, and then you apply. Clay allows you to immerse yourself and to think with it – thinking and making are synchronised.

    “You feel the clay through your body and your hands, particularly with hand building. It’s very different if you are just throwing clay about and making artistic statements and approaching it through thought, rather than the making,” Odundo told The Art Newspaper.

    She further noted that she was motivated to make the jump after joining West Surrey College on the advice of a colleague.

    She had gone to Cambridge a few years after Kenya gained independence at a time when the Black Power movement in the United States was still alive.

    “I wanted to find a way out of the commercial arts and on the advice of Zoë Ellison, who taught ceramics, I went to Farnham (West Surrey College of Art and Design), which offered applied art but which also had very good complimentary studies and history department.

    “The printmaking department was very good – and I still like to make prints and photographs – but it was the ceramics that caught my eye because I suddenly realised that I really liked objects,” she noted.

    Her showing at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge is set for July 24, 2022.

    Magdalene Odundo and her artwork
    Magdalene Odundo and her artwork.
    The Art Society

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