All the objects in the Women Potters of Africa exhibition are from a donation made by the ARgile Association to the Musée des Confluences. This association was set up in 1985 by ceramist Camille Virot and his wife, Marie-Pascaline. Its mission is to support reflection on contemporary ceramics, notably through its publishing activities. Trained at the École supérieure des arts décoratifs in Strasbourg, Camille Virot not only practices his craft in his studio in Haute-Provence, but also carries out important didactic work by organising exhibitions and publishing works centred on ceramic traditions at home and around the world.
Between 1991 and 1995, eleven European ceramists, united on the initiative of the French artist Camille Virot, went to live in villages in West African countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria. Having observed the women potters in action, and at times worked alongside them, they brought back around a hundred examples of pottery for daily use, selected for their aesthetic qualities by the ceramists, whose principal aim was to bring to light a contemporary savoir-faire in the shaping, decoration and firing of everyday objects. Several hours of films, interviews, notes, drawings from real life, tools and a large number of photographs all describe in detail this shared adventure and the main steps in the making of the pieces, from the extraction of the clay to the firing. Above and beyond their production, the ceramics also reveal a social identity transmitted from generation to generation, markers of the daily reality for these women, whose creations are an essential part of domestic life.
"The pots presented here are everyday items. They have been individually chosen for emotional reasons, without documentary objectivity. They are all charged with the significance of the encounter. We are committed to exhibiting them, for they are a Manifesto: though removed from their context, far from the sounds of laughter and the gritty light, they still express through their visual presence the time taken to create them, the daily battle to survive, the symbiosis between the senses and the material, and the perfect management of means and needs. African ceramics are indeed a rare example of everyday ceramics which have strongly maintained the physical relationship in their fabrication. These pots are as beautiful as plants, the fruits of a vigorously-harmonised vital force... " (Camille Virot)
Press release in English
Flyer : design FRESH ; photo Pierre-Olivier Deschamps – Agence VU’