Magdalene Odundo: Renowned Kenyan Artist Named Chancellor At Prestigious UK University

World-renowned Kenyan artist Magdalene Odundo is set to be named chancellor of the acclaimed University of Creative Arts. The Professor of Ceramics, who was once a student at the London-based institution, will succeed Dame Zandra Rhodes in June 2018.

An excited Odundo could not help but reveal how happy she is to be given the opportunity to serve the people of Kenya

“It is an honour to be invited to continue my relationship with a university I have been closely associated with over many years,” Odundo said.

Magdalene Odundo Bio

Born in 1950, in Nairobi Kenya, the studio potter Magdalene Anyango Namakhiya Odundo attended her primary and early education in both Kenya and India, after which she plunged herself into the creative arts when she took Graphics and Commercial Art as a course in the Nairobi Polytechnic in 1970.

She also visited Nigeria in 1974-1975 when she went to study at the Pottery Training Centre in Abuja, and then back to Kenya to study traditional hand-built pottery techniques.

She later moved to London to pursue a higher education where she studied in various institutions including Cambridge College of Art. She acquired a wealth of multidisciplinary experience and after graduating with a First Class degree in 3D Design in 1976, she started teaching at the Commonwealth Institute in London.

Magdalene Odundo later joined the Royal College of Art where she attained her Master’s degree before rising to become a Professor of Ceramics at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design in 2001.

Odundo has received high praises for her exhibitions and contribution to the creative arts throughout her career. In 2008, Professor Odundo was appointed as an Officer of The Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Victoria for services to the arts.

She also received the African Art Recognition Award in Detroit from the Detroit Art Institute’s Friends of African and African-American Art, making her one of the few African artists to hit the milestone.

In March 2016, she was inaugurated as an Emeritus Professor of UCA, with a celebration event held at the Farnham campus. She lives and works in Surrey.

The highly qualified scholar and professor retired from teaching in 2016 although her work continues to be exhibited across the globe with her art currently forming part of the British Studio Pottery exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art, showing from September to December 3rd, 2017.

Quick Facts About Magdalene Odundo

Magdalene Odundo is regarded as one of Kenya’s foremost revelations on the world stage, second only to President Barrack Obama of the United States of America. She is quite an authority in the world of culture and arts.

Known for her hand-built ceramics work, Odundo makes use of a coiling technique. Her pieces are burnished, covered with slip, and then burnished again. In a process known as reduction-firing, she fires her pieces in an oxidizing atmosphere, which gives them a red-orange coloration.

When the ceramics get fired a second time, in an oxygen-poor environment, the clay is turned black.

Her techniques have been said to be akin to those used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. She is also said to have incorporated influences from China and Mexico into her work, where she shapes her works using some kind of human forms, like the shapes of the head, the curves of the hips and spine, and so on.

Her pieces are in high demand, and take a lot of time to make, so that when eminent art collectors from around the world place orders for a particular kind of artwork from her, they have to wait for up to six to eight months to have them.

Her works can be found on exhibition in prestigious museums like the Museum of Mankind in Britain, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, The National Design Museum, as well as the Smithsonian Museum in New York.

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Other museums that showcase her works include esteemed ones like the Art Institute of Chicago. Her pieces are usually steeped in African and particularly, Kenyan symbolism and rituals.