Lady Kwali: The Pioneer Of African Ceramic Art Modernism.

Read Time:2 Minute, 33 Second

One of the most amazing stories of a woman who found a place for herself on the Nigerian 20 Naira note.

Celebrating The Worlds Womens day, this years theme, being Breaking The Bias, We take a look at a National Hero in the Field Of Arts.

Lady Kwali, a woman who changed the face of pottery in Nigeria and heralded the face of modern pottery through her special gift and dexterity in the act of pottery.

These Days the average Nigerian finds less use of the smaller denomination notes such as the 20 naira note, the 10 naira note aswell the 5 naira note ( i’m not even sure those even exist or can buy anything anymore). 

However, one thing we get to see more and more of is women not only striving for excellence in traditionally male dominated fields but also going ahead to thrive and go on to lead in their respectve fields & careers.

Kolinda Grabar
1st Female Preident Of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović
rihanna on
Singer & Business Mogul Rihanna
Michelle Obama on
Michelle Obama

She was born in the village of Kwali in the Gwari region of Northern Nigeria (the present Federal Capital Territory, Abuja), where pottery was a common occupation among women.

Kwali didn’t only see pottery as a casual occupation but a sacred and special gift that was meant to impact the world. Her pots were noted for their beauty of form and decoration.

The impact of her gift became widespread and reached the King’s Palace. Kwali took her time in making her design and they stood out because of their beauty and exquisite charm.

The Emir of Abuja at the time was so enchanted by her work that he bought many of her pieces for his collection. Some of those acquired by the Emir were seen by Michael Cardew in 1950

Through Kwali’s contact with Cardew, she and her work became known in Europe and America. She became known in most countries of the British Empire and she was made a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1963; she was awarded an honorary degree by Ahmadu Bello University in 1977. Her pottery was also displayed during Nigeria’s independence celebration in 1960.


For Kwali, her gift brought her before the Queen of England and got streets and roads named in her honour. We cannot fail to remember her picture on the Nigeria 20 Naira note.

She received a number of other honours among them the national honour of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in 1981. The Abuja Training Pottery Centre was renamed the Ladi Kwali Pottery Centre.



Roads in Abuja and Niger State are named after her. Kwali died on August 12, 1984 at the age of 59 in Minna. Although married, she did not have any children, but she left a rich legacy in her work.

The students she left at Abuja Pottery Training Centre became her children. The Bible says: ‘‘The gift of a man maketh room for him and bringeth him before great men.’’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

WP Twitter Auto Publish Powered By :