5 January 2023
Find out more about this special Punch Bowl, which was created by members of the community in response to Alberta Whittle’s film 'Hindsight is a luxury you cannot afford (2021)'. The film can currently be seen in 'British Art Show 9' and the bowl is also now on display on the first floor of The Box's main building.
The Box invited black women living in Plymouth to respond to the issues explored in the film. The women who were Cylena Simonds, Dezeta Fantie, Hannah Jordan, Jackie Wacha, Kenya Buchanan, Nubia Evans-Shields, Sharon Soper, Vanessa Crosse and Winnie Mania came together during October to create designs and charms to decorate the bowl.
The group were facilitated by ceramics artist Christina Peters who is based at Flameworks in Plymouth and who worked on a brief set by artist Alberta Whittle.
Alberta had two simple requests for the bowl. Firstly, it had to be blue and white referring to 'colonial' ceramic traditions where cobalt blue oxides decorate a white clay body. Secondly, it had to echo the Japanese art of Kintsugi, repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with gold following the ancient belief that an object that is damaged holds greater value due to its experience of the world.
The Punch Bowl and its decoration were inspired by the sea which features in Alberta’s work as ‘a crucible for knowledge, a place of torture, a graveyard, a place to forge new communities'. The end result is a fantastical object that could have been found at the bottom of the ocean. Cowrie shells adorn the bowl as does the Barbadian recipe for Planters Punch featured in Alberta’s performance of the same name: ‘One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak'.
The clay body is white stoneware with added porcelain flax fibre clay pieces. Anticipated differences in shrinkage of the clays produced random cracks which have been highlighted with gold, as an expression that signifies the strength, confidence and value of broken things.
The cobalt blue underglaze decorations are a mixture of cobalt ceramic transfers, shell textures, stamps and sgraffito (a technique used in painting, pottery, and glass, which consists of putting down a surface, covering it with another, and then scratching the top layer in a pattern or shape that emerges in the colour of the bottom layer).
Like Alberta's practice, the Punch Bowl explores colonisation and slavery, but also hope and optimism. It will become part of the collections here at The Box once British Art Show 9 has finished. See it on display until the end of Sunday 8 January. Opening hours are 10am-5pm. Admission is free and there's no need to book.