Moulding Stories with Clay - Nia Centre for the Arts

Moulding Stories with Clay

By Nia Centre, p
Posted on March 4, 2022

Throughout history, Black and Indigenous communities have used clay as a vessel for stories to travel across generations. In a brief moment during 2021 when restrictions in Ontario were lowered, we had the opportunity to partner with the Gardiner Museum’s Community Art Space Initiative. Established in 2016, Community Art Space works within the museum to re-envision what community engagement looks like. Through our partnership, we held ‘Knowing Histories, Building Futures’: a series of free clay making workshops for Black community members looking to experiment with the medium. 

Knowing Histories, Building Futures was one of the first in person programs we had hosted in over a year. Anxieties about gathering again in person were soothed by the supportive environment. Sessions were facilitated by Trinidadian artist and ceramicist Adam Williams of Clay Space Studio. With Adams guidance, participants learned clay history and experimented with techniques like pitch pot, moulding and glazing. 

Participants at work in the Gardiner Museum.

Bringing artists into community programming is an integral part of our work at the Nia Centre. Participants sat for inspiring talks by Black ceramicists, who highlighted the importance of community members remaining invested in artistic practices, even when they are not artists themselves. A highlight of the program was a talk by Caledon-based contemporary artist Christine Nnawuchi, who spoke of her own artistic journey, and her practice which weaves together ancient ideas, cultures and stories. 

“Working with clay has allowed me to reconnect with the playful side of my inner child and has encouraged me to see the imperfections of my pieces as a part of the experience of putting a part of yourself into the art you create.”

Ledya Participant

Participants at work in the Gardiner Museum.

Many find clay making to be a grounding exercise. As participants sat at their stations, materials reminded them of land connections, community and childhood memories. In the fast paced, demanding and extractive world of adulthood: it is easy to lose touch with an organic artistic connection. Through these sessions, participants were allowed to freely create without pressure, limits or stigma. 

As a Black Arts facility, Nia Centre is always looking for ways to make art an accessible and safe medium for Black communities to engage with. During the workshops, we watched the community access their creative energy and mould their stories in an environment that was supportive, encouraging and understanding. When our doors open at 524 Oakwood Ave in Fall 2022, creating opportunities for Black people to experiment and play with art will always be a priority for us.

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Ceramic Works from ‘Knowing Histories, Building Futures’.

Photography by Kyle Schmalenberg.

Ehiko Odeh
Octavia Andrade-Dixon
Gloria O’Koye
Daniella Castello
Hansel Igbavboa
Amal Ga’al
Fungai Guta
Kelisha May
Ledya Mahadere

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