UCA Chancellor receives
design industry’s highest honour

Ceramicist and UCA Chancellor, Dame Magdalene Odundo OBE, received a Lifetime Achievement Medal at this year’s London Design Festival.

25 Sep 2023

She joined Hanif Kara, Pooja Agrawal, and POoR Collective as winners of the four London Design Medals presented at the festival.

The Lifetime Achievement Medal honours an individual who has made significant and fundamental contributions to the design industry over their career.

Magdalene, who studied at UCA’s former college, West Surrey College of Art and Design in Farnham, gained a first-class degree in Ceramics and Printmaking and Photography in 1976.

Magdalene Odundo portrait © courtesy the artist. Photo by Cristian Barnett

Magdalene Odundo portrait Courtesy the artist. Photo by Cristian Barnett

For her dissertation, she visited Uganda to research ceramic techniques – including the traditional pottery technique of emsubi. Along with this, her work also draws upon Mexican traditional pottery, Greek Cydladic sculpture, as well as sub-Saharan ceramics.

From this, she developed her unique style for unglazed asymmetrical vessels, using multiple oxidised firings at high temperatures to create their depth of colour.

Magdalene said: “I have always been curious to discover why human beings make and surround themselves with objects that are not just utilitarian, but also give pleasure, have spiritual significance, and tell the stories of the people who made the objects.”

Today, Magdalene is a celebrated ceramic artist across the world, with her work on show in almost 50 international museums and public collections including African Heritage, Nairobi, The Art Institute of Chicago and the British Museum in London.

1984 Image © Magdalene Odundo Mixed-Colour Flat Topped Front

She has also been recognised as a significant player in contemporary ceramics, featuring in the Hayward Gallery’s 2022 flagship exhibition, Strange Clay: Ceramics in Contemporary Art.

Magdalene has most recently received an honorary doctorate of arts from Anglia Ruskin University and was appointed an OBE for services to art in 2008, and a DBE in 2020 for services to art and art education.

Ben Evans CBE, London Design Festival Director, said: “Each year, London Design Festival celebrates the creativity and innovation that shape our world. The 2023 London Design Medal winners are exemplary individuals and collectives, embodying the spirit of design excellence and its transformative power. Their work, from pushing the boundaries of architecture to fostering social change, inspires us all. Congratulations to the winners, and thank you for your invaluable contributions to the design industry and our vibrant city.”

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