Shea Burke

material will still hold its form. I am aware of the generations of ancestors who are there to support me when I am working with my hands. My fingers are their fingers. Through making I can preserve what must be remembered.
I build vessels that are revealing of the skill, labor, and knowledge that binds together each coil of the body. Can vessels teach us from their voiceless existence? If so, what will we learn? – The knowledge I have within me is often overlooked because I am Black. The vessels I make courageously exhibit my power, they lead with their vulnerability into battle with prejudice and inequality. They do this so that Black people who share with me the burden of having to be strong can release some of the weight they carry.
Each vessel I create is patterned with rhythmic markings. Layer after layer builds when I press into the clay, which becomes a tally of moments passing. The position of my hands and the force with which I move is recorded. While coil-building I shape the vessel as a place to put the things that slip through our fingers. There is comfort in the idea of having a place to store what we struggle to hold onto: memories, traditions, and moments that are eroded by time. The clay remembers my presence with the material. Its body designates a space for my ideas to be preserved.
I find inspiration in the silhouettes of functional vessels from West African traditions. I long to liberate them from the museums I have encountered them in. Through learning the shapes that make up the ceramic language of my ancestral homeland, I hope to refill the history, community, and living context that was poured out when they were stolen to be displayed in the museums of imperialist nations. I want there to be as much appreciation for the skill in a Kurumba storage vessel and Nupe palm wine vessel as there is for the Greek amphora and the Chinese teapot.
As those we look too for guidance share comfort and wisdom, these vessels are a place to pour worries when we need help. They pour back understanding and stability so that we may soak up their teachings to become vessels of wisdom ourselves. 

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