This collaborative study has brought together our various backgrounds in art history, ceramics practice,
chemistry, and clay mineralogy, so as to contextualise properties and ideas about the clay bodies
used by octogenarian potters Alice Gqa Nongebeza and Debora Nomathamsanqa Ntloya. Nongebeza
works from her homestead at Nkonxeni village [31º 37’59.66”S, 29º 23’22.26”E] in the Tombo area,
and Ntloya is based at Qhaka village [31º36’34.04”S, 29º 24’34.78”E] in the Chaguba area, these sites
being within about 5 kilometres of each other on the R61 road from Mthatha towards Port St Johns.
Working separately, these potters have been digging clay from their respective mining sites and making
pots for approximately the past sixty years. In this paper notions about why those specific clays
were chosen and why their characteristics are desirable are enframed by comparative chemical analyses
thereof as well as by a broad overview that places these clays in a wider perspective.