Ladi Kwali

Ladi Kwali’s generous functional pots included not only her memorable coiled and beaten water jars and other hand-built pieces, but a range of thrown bowls, tureens, beakers, jugs and tankards, richly decorated. They had a strong sense of their Nigerian heritage, but later pieces also showed Michael Cardew’s influence. Ladi Kwali (c.1925-1984) came from Kwali, a village of traditional potters producing typical coiled work. In 1954 she joined Michael Cardew’s pottery at Abuja, learning to throw, glaze and use slips on stoneware. Her more ambitious coiled pieces were enlivened by freely executed geometric and abstracted figurative decoration (lizards, snakes, birds, fish, crocodiles etc). Kwali’s work was an effective bridge between African and European influences, her pots full of expressive spirit, with her jars in particular having a powerfully sculptural quality. But there was a a strong sense of the material too, of the softness of the clay, and what Cardew would have called “kindness”. Even her smallest pieces had the almost indescribable life and energy of the most natural of potters.

David Whiting