The inception of cross-cultural dimensions in the ceramics of the late 1970s onwards, as reflected in the work of Maggie Mikula and her adherents.
In this dissertation the incorporation of cross-cultural imagery and its assimilation is focused on the work of Maggie Mikula, a ceramist from KwaZulu-Natal. Producing within the 1970's and 1980's. her work is investigated within the historical context of the socio-political background of South Africa. Syncretism in the visual arts reflects problems associated with identity and authenticity and this dissertation analyses these issues. A reference is made to select artists and ceramists in South Africa who approach their work in this manner, in particular with reference to the influence that Maggie Mikula has had in their work. Chapter One discusses the history of borrowing in South Africa citing examples of work by artists including amongst others Walter Battiss, Alexis Preller and Cecil Skotnes. This is based around the broad political and ideological relationships in the country that framed local art making. The assimilation and the breakdown of barriers in African/western art in a South African context is argued through a post-colonial reading. The chapter deals with the problems of borrowing related to appropriation and stereotyping from a postmodernist perspective. Chapter Two introduces the history of South African ceramics examining its development and styles, focussing on changing premises within the medium. The second part of the chapter positions Mikula's work, interests, personal history and ideals. Chapter Three deals with the development of Mikula's ceramic work, referring to her technology, processes and sourcing. The reception of Mikula's work and the attitudes to cross-cultural assimilation in the 1980's, as well as current perceptions are addressed in Chapter Four. Her influence on this creative medium is shown with specific examples. Personal interviews attempt to contextualise her position and situate her within the ceramic world. Acknowledging that there is a wealth of collections through out South Africa, the ceramic work predominately researched for this paper is from KwaZulu-Natal. It has been sourced both from the immediate family, and from individual collectors, as this was the site of her production. Other collections have been accessed from around South Africa including the Corobrik collection in Pretoria (of which there are two pieces - one which is broken), the large piece is documented photographically (see Fig.22) and referred to on Page 66. The Nelson Mandela Museum, Port Elizabeth, (accessed on-line and via photographs from the artist's records) has a notable collection, but given the nature of this research, these pieces do not demonstrate any significant features over and above those that were already sourced. This paper is not intended as a catalogue, but is meant to show a variety of Mikula's work to demonstrate her influence and style. Each piece is chosen for its specific aspects and unique features that would support this research. Given the nature of this investigation, the author has been obliged to read widely, including writers such as Berman, Sacks, Cruise and the complete edition of APSA newsletters and magazines to give a comprehensive over view of the changes in style and influence within South African art and specifically, ceramics.