Written by Sophie Ajaero
Did you know that the woman on the Twenty Naira Note is there because she was one of the greatest potters in the country at that time? Here’s what you were not taught about Nigeria’s green currency:
On the twenty naira note is the photograph of a woman working on a pottery. This lady is one of the greatest potters to come out of this nation and her name is Dr. Hajiya Hadiza Ladi Kwali.
Born into a family of prominent female potters, she began apprenticing under her aunt at an early age using the coiling and pinching method. What made her stand out was the exquisite design that she wove around her pots and jars, which were incomparable to that of anyone else’s at that time.
The Emir of Abuja, Alhaji Suleiman Barau came to see the extent of the beauty of her creations which he had heard about, as word had quickly spread about them across the land.
He bought a whole collection and displayed them in his house, which then led to her meeting with Michael Cardew, a British Potter, as he too was amazed by her level of artistry.
She became the first female potter to be enrolled in the Abuja Pottery Center, which Michael Cardew was in charge of, as he was appointed the Pottery Officer at the Department of Commerce and Industry by the British Colonial Government.
While working there she began to experiment with new methods and was able to come up with more intricate designs that made her even more unique.
She garnered international acclaim by demonstrating and exhibiting her works in countries like Germany and the United Kingdom, where she toured around with Cardew.
Throughout her lifetime, she achieved a lot as a result of her skills and still continues to do so even after her passing on the 12th of August, 1984.
- Her pottery was displayed in 1960, during Nigeria’s Independence celebration.
- The Ladi Kwali Residence hall is named after her in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
- The Ahmado Bello University granted her a doctorate degree in 1977.
- She obtained the title of the national honor of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in 1981.
- Her works were displayed at the Berkeley Galleries, London.
- She was given the insignia of the Nigerian National Order of Merit Award (NNOM) in 1980.
- One of the major streets of Abuja is named after her, Ladi Kwali Road.
- She was given the Silver Award for Excellence at the Tenth International Exhibition for Ceramic Art in Washington D.C.
- The Abuja Pottery has been renamed after her as Ladi Kwali Pottery.
- She is the only woman that has been features on our currency.
- She was made a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1962.
- The Ladi Kwali Convention Center in Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, is also named for her.
She continues to remain an inspiration to all, especially for those who are in the arts and those who are uneducated, as she was able to hold lectures at prominent Universities without being able to write or read.