Curatorial Voices: Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa

Live Virtual Auction, 28 February 2023

Curatorial Voices: Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa
About the Session

Curatorial Voices: Modern and Contemporary Art from Africa is a dynamic collaborative project conceived by Strauss & Co to address the need for diversified representation of artists from across the African continent in the secondary market. Curated by Strauss & Co Heads of Sale, Kirsty Colledge and Kate Fellens, with input by seven international art experts with embedded knowledge of Africa; Serge Tiroche, Valerie Kabov, Heba Elkayal, Danda Jaroljmek, Anne Kariuki, Dana Endundo Ferreira, Kimberley Cunningham. Curatorial Voices presents collectors with a broad selection of work by leading contemporary artists alongside select pieces by important historical artists.

Sold for

ZAR 93 800
Lot 61
  • Deborah Bell; Crying Pot, Crying Pots Series
  • Deborah Bell; Crying Pot, Crying Pots Series
  • Deborah Bell; Crying Pot, Crying Pots Series

Lot Estimate
ZAR 80 000 - 120 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 93 800

About this Item

South African 1957-
Crying Pot, Crying Pots Series
terracotta, kiln and pit fired, fat, wax and charcoal
height excluding base: 95cm; height including base: 135cm; width: 45cm; depth: 43cm


The present lot is accompanied by a granite base.

"I started working with the image of the crying pot during the time that the Truth and Reconciliation hearings had just begun, and were being aired on television. Apart from being struck by the atrocities that were being revealed, I was overwhelmed by the grief of the friends and the families of the victims - especially the women. Watching their pain as the stories were told, I realised that they were the true victims. Not only had they lost the people close to them, but their powerless status, the lies and the cover-ups had violated and abused them. Whilst they would never be celebrated as the heroes, they became symbolic of the horrors of our history. The crying and the wailing was in many ways cathartic, and in my head it grew: it became a large wailing for all the other horrors, the wars in Rwanda, Burundi, Bosnia. The wailing grew and grew until it became mother earth lamenting the history of mankind. I looked at Picasso, I looked at Mangbetu pots and I played with the idea of a grieving entity that was completely subsumed in its grief. The form of a pot with a head thrown back in anguish - with no arms or legs - accentuated this pain. The bowl of the pot became a symbol of the earth, the gesture of pain became a cry and a prayer. But there is a potency, a promise of new beginnings, of birthing, which moves these sculptures and drawings from images of victims to a promise of power." —Deborah Bell, 20041

1. David Krut Publishing (2004) Deborah Bell, Johannesburg: David Krut Publishing, Taxi-Art Book 010, page 66.

Deborah Bell is one of South Africa’s most celebrated contemporary artists. Bell received her BAFA (Hons) and MFA degrees at the University of the Witwatersrand. She works in a range of media on canvas and paper, produces drypoint etchings and large-scale bronzes. Her earlier more political work has given way to a broader, deeper investigation into the border between mortality and immortality, matter and spirit, presence and absence, the quotidian and the mythic, the grounded and transcendent. Bell has collaborated on various historically important projects with contemporaries such as William Kentridge and Robert Hodgins. Her work is represented in public and private collections around the world including the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY, USA; the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA; the Hara Museum, Tokyo, Japan; and the IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town. As well as a career as an artist, Bell has worked as a lecturer at various South African tertiary institutions, including the University of the Witwatersrand.


Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, 1998.

Private Collection.


David Krut Publishing (2004) Deborah Bell, Johannesburg: David Krut Publishing, Taxi-Art Book 010, softcover, illustrated in colour on page 65.

View all Deborah Bell lots for sale in this auction

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