If you’ve ever taken a good look at your naira banknotes, you’d notice 99% of the known faces on them are male. The only exception is the ₦20 note — the one that’s not even enough to buy sachet milk anymore because of inflation.
Everyone knows about the military dictator who’s the face of the ₦20 note, but do you know about the busy-looking woman moulding pots on the back of the note?
Well, her name is Ladi Kwali, and we found the most interesting things you should know about her.
Kwali was born on a Sunday
Hajiya Hadiza Ladi Kwali was born in the Gwari region of Northern Nigeria in 1925. Ladi means, “Born on Sunday”, and Kwali is the name of the Gwari village where she was born.
Pottery was her first life skill
As a child, when she should have been outside playing with friends, Kwali learnt how to mould pots from her aunt using a method called “coiling and pinching”.
Rich people were Kwali’s clientelé
Even as an apprentice and later when she relocated to Abuja, clients like the Emir of Abuja were on her roster.
She’s the first female potter at Michael Cardew’s training centre
Kwali studied at the training centre run by the legendary British potter, Michael Cardew. She’s the first ever woman to train in the art of advanced pottery techniques.
She was world-famous
Kwali pioneered African ceramic art modernism. She gained international visibility and admiration through exhibitions and practical demonstrations arranged principally by Cardew. She remains notable for London exhibitions at the Berkeley Galleries in 1958, 1959 and 1962.
She won prestigious national awards
Kwali received various awards such as the member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1977. In Nigeria, she also won the National Order of Merit (NNOM) in 1980 and the national honour of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in 1981.
She got a doctorate
Even though Kwali never went to school, she received an honorary doctorate from Ahmadu Bello University in 1977 and became a part-time lecturer in the university.
She was immortalised after death
After Kwali died on August 12, 1984, a major street in Abuja was named the Ladi Kwali Road in her honour.
And, of course, she’s the only known woman who ever made it on any Nigerian currency note.