By Nii B. Andrews.

In the late 1950s and early 60s, the engaging ceramic art of Ladi Kwali gained international attention.

Ladi Kwali was born into a family of potters in Kwali, Abuja circa 1925. 

It was an aunt who taught a young Ladi the coil and pinch methods of pottery. To Ladi’s credit, she over the years improved and refined her execution thus developing her own unique style. 

Her work gained the attention of wealthy and influential indigenous patrons who acquired pieces from her for use as interior decor.

It was within a royal palace that Michael Cardew – an expat founder of the first formal potter training establishment in Abuja, encountered her work in 1950.

 Four years later, Ladi joined Michael Cardew’s pottery at Abuja, learning to throw, glaze and use slips on stoneware. 

She produced excellently coiled pieces that were embellished with freely executed geometric and abstracted figurative decoration (lizards, snakes, birds, fish, crocodiles etc). 

There were also among her repertoire generous functional pots, coiled and beaten water jars and other hand-built pieces; a range of thrown bowls, tureens, beakers, jugs and tankards, all richly decorated. 

Her pieces always seemed vivified; exuding a strong essence or if you prefer spirituality; their sculptural power was unmistakable.

Ladi had been able to reinterpret the African idioms with her work while simultaneously pushing beyond the European elements in which she had received instruction. 

Her work was fresh and unique; a new path that transcended its antecedents.

The London auction house Bonhams will next month ( February 13 – 23)  hold the first dedicated sale of its kind to focus on pottery from Abuja.

It will be headlined by Ladi Kwali.

The online auction titled ABUJA! LADI KWALI & THE ART OF CLAY will include a variety of objects created by ceramicists from this region. 

Other artists of interest included are: Danlami Aliyu, Halima Audu, Gugong Bong, Peter Gboko, Asibo Ido, Abu Karo, Hassan Lapai, Tanko Mohammud, Lami Toto, Kande Ushafa and Bala Yawa.

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