Christine Nnawuchi molds the tools of a high priestess in Everything She Left Behind

By Lidia Abraha, p
Posted on March 15, 2021

When Christine Nnawuchi closes her eyes in her home studio, lost in the flow of her work, she’s transported to an ancient world ruled by a high priestess. The Caledon-based ceramicist can feel the air, the warmth and the power of the mythological woman who has lays root in this imaginary society.  

For the last seven years, Christine has been unearthing the workspace of this ancient healer through ceramics. For the first time, these pieces will be exhibited at Harbourfront Centre in partnership with Nia Centre for Kuumba — their annual Black History Month program. The public art exhibition titled Where She Went, We Thrived, explores the magic and tenacity of Black womanhood, and how their contributions shaped the world we know today. 

“I’ve just been fixated on her and her journey through these organic ancient feeling pieces,” she says, “It’s linked to my ancestral roots as well.”

As a child growing up in a Nigerian-West Indian household, Christine remembers a beautiful ceramic plate holding the pieces of a Kola nut, which was traditionally cracked by male elders of the community as part of tradition to greet guests when they arrived in the home, like a prayer and a warm welcome.

“These are the traditions we don’t see very often, and have been lost in our history, especially as Black people, as part of the diaspora, where we are scattered all across the world but we’re still all connected to this greater being—and whenever I think about that, it always goes back to women.”

Christine’s work tells the story of an ancient high priestess, and what items are left behind when your village is ravaged by tribal wars, drought, fire or famine. 

“These pieces showcase a powerful Black woman, a leader, warrior, a healer. She is the voice of wisdom and clarity. She carries her people’s history and encompasses the many roles that we as black women have all descended from—she is the matriarch of the village,” says Christine, who molds the tools and trinkets left behind from this world.

These lost artifacts are infused with memories, stories and experiences of this lost world and the ancient healer who was also a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a wife who nurtured them. Inspired by this unique sense of nostalgia, Christine hopes that viewers can relate to the same sense of longing for a community you’ve never known.   

“My art is about rediscovering that community. Now more than ever a sense of community is incredibly important, especially, in these times,” she says.

The first time Christine held clay in her hand was in elementary school in art class. She remembers the feeling of clay under her fingernails, and the ease of meshing the pieces together to create a piece of work. 

It wasn’t until seven years ago, she began to experiment with this art form further in a workshop led by Debra Gibbs where she was encouraged to explore her talents further and make her own home studio.

“I feel like through the work that I’m doing, I’m rediscovering this community. I want to just explore. I just want to have fun with this world that’s in my head that just needs to come out.”

While discovering her love for the craft, she never paid any mind to the art world, and the opportunities she could find. In the past she’s usually one of few artists invited to be a vendor at art fairs in Toronto, but this will be the first time Christine has ever been part of an exhibition.

“We need to feel like they can showcase their shades and styles, and by doing so, you’re able to really show the eclectic tapestry, that is Blackness.”

You can learn more about Christine at her upcoming Artist Talk on March 25th. She’ll delve deeper into her exciting journey as an artist, show her home studio and discuss her creative process. Sign up here.

Purchase Christine’s work here, and follow her on Instagram.

Copyright © 2021 Nia Centre for the Arts All Right Reserved.