Ladi Kwali

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Ladi Kwali was a Nigerian potter of Gwari heritage born in the town of Kwali, Abuja. She came to international prominence as a skilled potter in the 1950s with help from Michael Cardew (Baban Shaku) who had helped launched a pottery training center in 1952. Prior to the center's launching, Ladi Kwali was already a skilled potter trained in Gwari techniques being versed in making large pots in the traditional Gwarin Yamma style. Some of Kwali's works were already in the palace of the Emir of Abuja, it was during a visit to the palace that Michael Cardew noticed her works and prodded her to join the center.

Many of her early works were hand built storage jars, water pots, bowls, casseroles, flasks and big jugs added with a naturalized system of design comprised of impressed stylized designs of animals such as snakes, scorpions, lizards, and crocodiles.

Ladi Kwali joined the pottery center and later trained there utilizing new methods such as glazing, wheel throwing, kiln firing and stoneware which were taught there. At the center, she was known for her experimental and innovative works merging the Gwari style she was proficient at with the modern techniques creating some popular glazed stoneware with stylized animal graffito.

The Abuja Pottery Training Center was renamed Ladi Kwali Training Center in her honor.


Kwali's first name means born on Sunday while her second name takes after a Western Gwari town in Abuja which was also her home. Then, most women in Kwali were potters.

Ladi Kwali first came to learn Gwari pottery making while apprenticing with her stern aunt who taught her Gwari techniques of coil and pinch methods of pottery given open firing. She later developed a mature sense of form and an intimate knowledge of clay characteristics which are important to a potter. The Gwari methods produced three major shapes, the randa: a large water storage pot, kasko: household storage pot and tulu: an ornamented storage pot. Just before electing to work with Cardew and the training center, she was a trader and shop keeper in Minna, Niger, State. In 1954, she joined the center as the first female member and where she became known for the large tulu pots she made ornamented with stylized designs of animal figures such as monkeys and chameleons. Her presence at the center made it easier for more women to join. By 1965, a pottery workshop center called Dakin Gwari had four women working together.

In 1958, 1959, and 1962, her work was exhibited in London and her contributions helped in keeping the pottery center afloat.