On Wednesday, Google put a doodle on its home page to honor the Nigerian potter Ladi Kwali.
Kwali was a teacher, potter, glassworker, and ceramicist. His intricately decorated earthenware designs helped show people around the world how beautiful Nigerian art is.
She learned to make pottery when she was young, and later she came up with her own style, which included making everyday containers with animal shapes on them.
Kwali’s works were used as masterful decorations in the homes of the wealthy and even in palaces.
In 1950, her work at a royal palace caught the eye of Michael Cardew, who started the first pottery school in Abuja.
The first lady from Nigeria to learn sophisticated pottery techniques was Kwali. She combined her traditional style with new techniques to make a collection of pottery that was a mix of the two.
In the 1960s, she became famous all over the world after showing her work in Europe and the Americas.
After earning his Ph.D. from Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria in 1977, Kwali went on to teach at a university.
She became a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1963. In 1980, she was given the Nigerian National Order of Merit Award for her work in academia. In 1981, she was also given the national honor of Officer of the Order of the Niger.
Kwali is still the only woman whose picture is on a Nigerian N20 note.
On March 16, 2017, Kwali’s work was shown at the Skoto Gallery in New York. Google’s doodle was made to honor this event.
Ladi Kwali Bio
Ladi Kwali was born in the village of Kwali in Northern Nigeria’s Gwari region, where women traditionally made pottery. Her aunt taught her how to make pottery when she was a child. They used the traditional coiling method.
She beat clay coils from the inside with a flat wooden paddle to make large pots that could be used as water jars, cooking pots, bowls, and flasks.
Incised geometric and stylized figure patterns, such as scorpions, lizards, crocodiles, chameleons, snakes, birds, and fish, were used to decorate them.
Her pots were known for their beautiful shapes and designs, and she was known in the area as a talented and well-known potter. Alhaji Suleiman Barau, the Emir of Abuja, bought a few of them, and in 1950, Michael Cardew saw them in his home.
Ladi Kwali Early Life
She was born in 1925 in the tiny village of Kwali, which is now part of the Kwali Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (Other historians indicate her date of birth is actually 1920).
She was raised in a family where making pottery was a folk tradition for women. Mallam Mekaniki Kyebese, Ladi Kwali’s younger brother, said, “Even when she first started making pottery, Ladi Kwali was very good at it, and many of her pieces were sold before they were even taken to the markets.”
During her first few years as a professional, she was influenced by the traditional culture around her. This led her to make pottery that was based on the Gbagyi tradition and infused with personal idioms.
Her way of working with clay had mathematical undertones, which were made clear by the constant use of symmetry.
Ladi Kwali Career
In 1951, the colonial government of Nigeria gave Michael Cardew the job of Pottery Officer in the Department of Commerce and Industry. In April 1952, he opened the Pottery Training Center in Suleja, which was then called “Abuja.”
In 1954, Ladi Kwali became the first woman to work at the Abuja Pottery. There, she learned how to throw on a wheel, glaze, fire in a kiln, make saggars, and use slip. Eventually, she became an instructor.
She made bowls with sgraffito designs, which were made by dipping the bowls in red or white slip and then using a porcupine quill to scratch the designs through the slip to the bowl’s body.
By the time Cardew left his job in 1965, Halima Audu, Lami Toto, Assibi Iddo, and Kande Ushafa, all from Gwari, had joined the Center.
Large water pots were made by hand in one of the workshops, which the women called Dakin Gwari (the Gwari room).
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