Most of the different shapes, sizes, and finishes of Zulu pottery relate to various stages of brewing, storing, or drinking traditional Zulu sorghum beer.
The "utshwala” beer, a nutritional drink with low alcohol content, is shared at ceremonial gatherings to honor a family’s ancestors.
Zulu pottery features a smooth, burnished exterior with raised or etched designs on the surface. Pots are coiled in traditional fashion and then fired in an open pit using sticks and leaves. The surface designs often echo the designs found in other Zulu art forms; "beaded” necklace patterns, "braided” zigzags, and geometric designs are also found in Zulu basket weaving and jewelry.
Generation after generation, the pottery is made by the women for use in the ceremonial gatherings. One way the family’s ancestors are honored is by passing the methods for making the pottery from mother to daughter.