Ladi Kwali Biography, Age, Works, Husband & Children

Ladi Kwali was born in 1925 and died on 12th August 1984. She earned a living as a famous Nigerian Educator, ceramist, and potter. She is the Nigerian woman on 20 Naira note . Here’s more to know about Ladi Kwali.


Full name: Dr Hadiza Ladi Kwali

Date of birth: 1925

Marital status: Married

Date of death: 12 August 1984

Sibling: Mallam Mekaniki Kyebese

Occupation:  Ceramist, Potter, and educator

Famous as: Being the first Nigerian woman on the Naira Note


Ladi Kwali was born in a small village in the Gwari region of northern Nigeria into a family where pottery making was a common occupation for native women. As a child, she learned to mix clay to make decorative products for the home, such as pots, inspired by the Gbagyi tradition  – the largest ethnic group in Abuja.

Ladi Kwali’s aunt taught her the working methods of pottery, and Ladi made large water pitchers, cooking pots, bowls, and jars from clay rolls. She cooked them in an outdoor fire covering them with dry vegetation and lighting them, she decorated them with geometric and figurative animal motifs such as scorpions, lizards, crocodiles, birds, and fish. All these decorative techniques are ancient and date back to the Neolithic period.

Pottery Education

Ladi Kwali’s talent was noticed early by the Emir of Abuja (now Suleja), Alhaji Suleiman Barau, who collected her pots and exhibited them in his palace, where they caught the attention of ceramist Michael Cardew (1901-1983) during an in-depth study of the development of pottery that he carried out for the Nigerian colonial government.

Mr. Cardew founded the Pottery Training Center (PTC) in Abuja in 1952.  When Nigeria gained its independence in 1960, Michael was a Nigerian civil servant and taught until his retirement in 1965. Ladi Kwali became its first female student in 1954. She completed her training in January 1959 and was then employed at the center.

Although Mr. Cardew taught her how to work with a wheel, Ladi Kwali preferred to use the stoneware of the PTC to create pots using the traditional technique of coiling, which she mastered to perfection.

Ladi Kwali Pottery Design

She decorated them with bands of linear patterns, between which she places schematic representations of scorpions, fish, birds, snakes, chameleons, crocodiles, and lizards. She fills in the deeply incised lines of porcelain clay that contrast with the darker hue of the high-fired celadon glaze.

With new materials and cooking techniques, she created heavier and more resistant pots that can no longer serve as ordinary fresh water containers, and thus become works of art. Buyers and the public, fond of these different pots, were also changing and expanding from the local to the international scale. Her works were a new form of art and made Ladi Kwali the pioneer of modern ceramics in Africa.


Ladi Kwali was married during her lifetime but she had no children. However, Ladi Kwali’s husband wasn’t publicly known because she kept her marriage life secret.

It is reported that Ladi Kwali didn’t have any children.


Ladi’s excellent vessels were shown at international ceramics exhibitions in Abuja, then in 1959 and 1962 in London organized by Cardew. She traveled and represented Nigeria in various countries in Europe, and in 1972 she toured the United States. She gave lectures and demonstrations in various parts of the world. Later in her career, she shared the secrets of her trade with the local community, as a university professor.

Ladi Kwali has received international recognition: in 1963 she was recognized as a Member of the Order of the British Empire, and in 1980 the Nigerian government awarded her the National Order of Merit award for spreading the beauty of Nigerian art, through the elaboration of decorated pottery.

In the early 1980s, the Abuja Pottery Training Center has renamed the Ladi Kwali Pottery Center. Ladi Kwali passed away in 1984 at the age of 59 in Minna, Niger state.

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