Although Magdalene Odundo’s vessels have no utilitarian or ritualistic function and are created with a process thousands of years old, they seem unreservedly contemporary. Using traditional potting techniques, Odundo fires her work in wood chips. By burnishing her hand-built coils, covering them with slip, and burnishing them again, they oxidize during firing, creating a smoky, blackened surface, reminiscent of traditions and techniques used in ages past and reflective of African ceramic history.
Born in Nairobi, Kenya and trained as a graphic artist, Odundo studied in India and England, receiving a BA from St. Joseph’s College of Art and Design in Surrey and a MA from the Royal College of Art, in London. She returned to Africa to study the hand-building and firing techniques of the indigenous women of Kenya and Nigeria, and applied them to her black ware vessels. A professor of ceramics in Surrey, Odundo was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for Service to the Arts and was awarded the African Art Recognition award by the Detroit Art Institute. She has had extensive solo and group exhibits, served as faculty artist at Haystack in Maine and Artist in Residence at Huara Huara, Santiago, Chile. Her vessels are included in the permanent collections of prominent museums including the Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, LA County Museum of Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, British Museum, and the Smithsonian.