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Orieji - Ceramics of the Sahel


Orieji Hunwick with her father Professor John Owen Hunwick
Orieji Hunwick, has created ceramics for the past 18 years. Her work reflects the world of the Sahel, a vast expanse of land on the edge of the Sahara, that stands as the border between human habitat and this planet's greatest desert. Her repertoire of Sahelian, Timbuktu and Tuareg inspired creations has come to encapsulate two generations of love and admiration for the intricacies of life in this region. 

While Orieji herself shies away from a label of genius, she does admit there is definitely genius behind her work worth acknowledging, that of her father and primary influence. She is the daughter of esteemed historian, Professor Emeritus John Hunwick, renowned for uncovering Timbuktu's ancient manuscripts.

Her father's landmark discoveries forced the academic world and indeed the wider public to recognise Africa as more than just "a continent of song and dance". He unearthed the documented history of this ancient Islamic empire and in compiling his research, authored the well-known phrase "Arabic was the Latin of Africa". His final Saharan treks which are aptly documented in this article from the New York Times, led the Chicago Tribune to report that his expositions were "akin to the recovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls."


Professor Hunwick on a visit to the old library of Fez
An inspirational figure, Professor Hunwick is revered as a seminal influence in redefining African history and intellectualism. His daughter, Orieji's ceramics are in many ways a tribute to his lifework and her upbringing in this region. Much like her father she has dedicated her life to the diversity of culture, religion, language and art across the continent. Each piece she produces reflects something of Sahelian lifestyle, terrain, architecture, and pragmatism.

Orieji attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree with another baccalaureate degree in African Languages and Literature. Her main academic concentrations have been in African Studies, Ceramic Art and Arabic. Under the tutelage of acclaimed Professor Henry Drewal in African Art History, she learned about the compelling ways in which African art has influenced European art movements. Professor Drewal emphasised the lack of recognition that African art and its individual artists have received as the forebears of Cubism, German Expressionism and other modern art movements and artistic styles. 

Orieji is an impassioned advocate in our mission to promote Africa's finest artisans. More than this, to all who are fortunate to behold the exquisite ceramics she produces, she is the ideal artisan to represent the legacy of the Sahel that her father spent a lifetime resurrecting.