21 April 2016
By now, most people have heard of Harriet Tubman, the brave anti-slavery activist who recently became the first black American to be on the face of a dollar note, replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. However, not many people know the story of the lady on the back of the 20 Naira note, dressed in green and working away at her pottery.
Her name is Ladi Kwali. She was born in 1925 in the village of Kwali, in what is now known as Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. She grew up learning the traditional method of pottery of her village and distinguished herself by her skill and dexterity in visual arts, particularly in pottery.
She was the first female potter to join the Pottery Training Centre in Abuja and became an instructor there. Her works have been featured in exhibitions all over the world, from France, to the UK and Germany.
Her achievements have not gone unnoticed in Nigeria either. Asides from being featured at the back of the 20 Naira note, she was also awarded an honorary doctoral degree from Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. In Abuja, a major street is named after her. The Nigerian government also vested her with the Nigerian National Merit Award in 1980, which is the highest national honour for academic achievement and she also received the honour of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON). One of the largest conference facilities in Abuja at Sheraton Hotel is called the Ladi Kwali Convention Center, honouring the legacy of the lady on the 20 naira note.