At the back of the 20 naira note is Ladi Kwali’s picture, a celebrated potter who hailed from the northern part of Nigeria. Many might be wondering what made her capable of featuring in 20naira note. A career woman I would like to call her who does small things in a big way.
Ladi . was born in the village of Kwali, which is located in the Gwari region of present day Abuja, where pottery was indigenous female tradition.
Kwali who grew up in a family in which womenfolk made pots for a living, learnt to make pottery as a child from her aunt.
Kwali’s younger brother, Mallam Mekaniki Kyebese, said: “Even in the early years of pottery making, Ladi Kwali excelled in the crafts and her wares were often sold even before they were taken to the markets”
She produced pottery pieces that were influenced by the Gbagyi tradition during her first professional years.
Ladi Dosei Kwali (1925-1983) popularly known as Dr Ladi Kwali was born in 1925 in Kwali town in present day Abuja, where pottery making was popular among women. She was instrumental in making large pots for the use of storing water as well as cooking pots made from coils of clay. What made Dr Kwali’s work famous were the intrinsic and geometric designs of her works; so beautiful that the Emir of Abuja acquired several of them. In 1950 her art was noticed by an English studio Potter named Michael Cardew and in 1954 she joined Cardew’s Pottery Training Centre in Abuja. At the training Centre, she learned to make pots on the wheel and infused her traditional style with western art becoming one of the unique potters in the world with her African/Western hybrid techniques. Dr Kwali’s Work quickly became well known around the world by the 1960’s as they were featured in the Berkeley Galleries in London. She was awarded an MBE in 1963 and a street in Abuja is named after her today. The Very same Pottery centre where she learned to evolve her craft is now named after her and she is featured on the N20 Bill.
Women of today should look at her as source of inspiration because she never felt ashamed of her career.