History and Heritage

Why is Ladi Kwali famous? | Ladi Kwali Biography

Nigerian 20 naira note back

The frontierswoman of modern pottery in Nigeria left behind the bequest of creativity and artworks that blended traditional African and Western pottery.

The Nigerian potter Hadiza Ladi Kwali was born in 1925, in the village of Kwali in Gwari region of Northern Nigeria. Over there, pottery was a very common occupation amongst the women, she learnt the art of pottery from her aunty at 9 years old using the traditional coiling method.

Ladi Kwali

During her early professional years, the traditional cultural environment endeared her to produce pottery crafts that were influenced by the Gbagyi tradition and focused attention with personal idioms. She made big pots used as water jags and cooking pots from coils of clay, beaten from the inside with a flat wooden paddle, beautified with incised geometric and stylish figurative patterns. She had no form of formal education.


Ladi Kwali became world-famous for practising a hybrid of traditional African and Western studio pottery styles. As a result, she conducted workshops, demonstrations and exhibitions held in London, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and all over the United States.

Ladi Kwali hybrid technique added a blend to the customary Gwari method and the traditional coiling method which she learnt from her Aunt with Western techniques of wheel throwing and glazing, which she acquired a knowledge of from the Abuja Pottery Training Center. While still using the traditional open firing method with herbal glazes, Ladi Kwali’s pottery modified the face of modern pottery around the world.

In acknowledgement of her achievements and hard work, Nigeria graced the Nigerian 20 Naira note with her picture, she’s the only woman to have such honour. The only woman of Nigerian currency.

Her works are displayed in prominent places like the National Museum Lagos, the Barbier-Muller Museum Geneva, Switzerland, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, and Albert Museum, London.

Ladi Kwali Awards

This is a breakdown of the pioneer’s biographical timeline:

1934: Ladi Kwali began learning pottery making as an apprentice to her aunt.

1950: An English potter, Michael Cardew (pottery officer in the Department of Commerce and Industry) was sent to Abuja area by the colonial government to develop a ceramic industry. Cardew noticed Ladi Kwali’s pots at the palace of the Emir of Abuja, Alhaji Suleiman Barau, who had many of her pieces.

1952: In April 1952, Michael Cardew opened the Abuja Pottery Training Centre in Suleja.

1954: Ladi joined the Abuja Pottery Training Centre, with the invitation of Cardew. She was the Centre’s first female potter.

1958: Ladi Kwali’s pots were featured in the international exhibition of Abuja pottery organized by Cardew in London.

1959: Kwali’s work was shown to great acclaim in London at the Berkeley Galleries.

1960: Her works were displayed at the Nigerian Independence Exhibition during the Independence Day celebration.

1961: She gave demonstrations at the Royal College, Farnham, and Wenford Bridge in Great Britain.

1962: Ladi Kwali conducted a workshop in London.

1963: Ladi Kwali was awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). She conducted a series of workshops and exhibitions in Germany, Italy, and Switzerland.

1964: Ladi Kwali featured in the group exhibition at the Tenth International Exhibit of Ceramic Art, Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.

1964-1965: Ladi Kwali conducted workshops in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and other major cities in the US. She received the Silver Award for Excellence, Tenth International Exhibit of ceramic Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

1970: Ladi Kwali toured America with Michael Cardew. She gave workshops and demonstrations in Washington DC.

1974: Ladi featured in a group exhibition at ‘Contemporary African Arts’, Field Museum of National History, Chicago, USA.

1977: Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria awarded her with an honorary doctorate. She spent a session at Ahmadu Bello University giving classes on her pottery-making techniques.

1980: In 1980 the Nigerian Government invested in Kwali the insignia of the Nigerian National Order of Merit Award (NNOM), the highest national honour for academic achievement. The Abuja Pottery Centre was renamed the Ladi Kwali Pottery Centre.

1981: Ladi Kwali received the National Honour of the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON). A major street was named Ladi Kwali Road in Abuja. Sheraton Hotel housed the Ladi Kwali Convention Center, one of the largest conference facilities in Abuja with ten meeting rooms and 4 ballrooms.

1984: In 12th August 1984, Hadiza Ladi Kwali died in Minna, Niger State, Nigeria.





read more

Do You Know The Real Owners Of Abuja?

Abuja City Gate

Lots of Nigerians don’t know much about the history of Abuja nor the real people who own Abuja, that is, the real owners of Abuja whose land was taken from them to form the seat of POWER.

Somewhere far in the obscure land of Abuja, (now the capital city of Nigeria), lives the Gbagyi (Gwari) people, who were the original settlers before it was set out to be the seat of POWER. The then military government in 1976, had the clever idea to discover a ‘no man’s land’ that’s located in the geographical centre of the country, which no tribe could lay claim to and an area in which Nigerians could unite as one.

Except for the 8,000 hectares of land upon which the capital city stood, that includes the Presidential Villa, the National Assembly and most of the Federal Government institutions and parastatals, suburban neighbourhoods and big malls, which was the Gbagyi’s land. These people were forced out of their land by the then military government to make way for the construction of the capital city and promised the Gbagyi people compensation and resettlement. The government underestimated the population of the Gbagyi people living in the territory as they went on with their plans for the land.

Many of the displaced families were given housing, but some of them lived in transit and settlement camps for a very long time while the Federal Government compensation plans were bungled. Decades later, the ethnic group feels that the Federal Government has cheated them, and deprived them of their heritage and land. However, let us show you the rich culture and heritage of the Gbagyi (Gwari) people.

Culture and Heritage of the Gbagyi (Gwari) people.

Culture and Heritage of Gbagyi people

Gbagyi (Gwari) are the Nupoid-speaking people living in North-Central geo-political zone of Nigeria who are artistic, peaceful, and agricultural inclined. They generally live in Niger, Kaduna and the Federal Capital Territory. They are also found in Nasarawa and Kogi States in central Nigerian areas. Gbagyi (Gwari) is the most populated indigenous and ethnic group in Abuja and their major occupation is farming.

According to oral lore, the first settler was a hunter who went hunting in Paikokun land, a forest in Abuja. Paikokun was the name of the mountain the first settler settled. The Gbagyi originally used to live on mountain tops because they believed they were safer on the mountain before the western civilization made most of them to relocate from the mountain.

How To Identify Gbagyi (Gwari) People

gbagyi people placing loads on their shoulders

Very peculiar to the Gbagyi women is placing of goods on their shoulder no matter how heavy it is. They believe the head signifies the “control” for the whole body. Hence, it shouldn’t be stressed. They call the part of their body they use to carry their loads Bwapa. They also believe that carrying of loads on the shoulder is lighter than using the head. It is still very much in practice.


Marriage among the people of Gbagyi is immersed in deep tradition. When a man makes known his intentions to marry a woman, he is made to serve 7 years in the woman’s father’s farm, labouring and supplying grains and other farm produces to the woman’s house for her to be well fed. Nowadays, the man simply pays the bride’s price instead of serving 7 years.


Some Gbagyi believes in SHEKWOI, the God who was there before their ancestors, but they’re also devoted to appeasing deities of the god, MAIGIRO. Originally their main religion is KNUNU, which they believe protects them from the evil in their community. They appease Knunu by offering fowl and alcohol as a sacrifice to a particular tree found deep in the forest. Within the inception of westernization, Islam became well known among the people after the Fulani jihad while Christianity was introduced to the people by the Surdan Interior Mission, also locally known as Evangelical Church of Africa. Gbagyi people embraced Islam more than Christianity because some practices done by Islam such as devotion, using amulets and polygamy were also practised in their religion.


Gbagyi loves making a meal called Wyizhe. The meal is made from guinea corn which they also use to make a unique drink called Zhepwo. Gbagyi people also take pleasure in drinking a soup called Knadolo made from locust beans.


The Gbagyi (Gwari) people wear tie and dye clothing known as Ajeside, made from local cotton and traditional woven and dyed.


The Gbagyi people are mainly farmers although they are also good in wood fetching, pottery, and blacksmith. They were also popular for their visual art most especially pottery. Other arts practised by them are sculpture, iron smelting, domestic craft and smelting.

These are the real owners of Abuja and this is their way of life. Nigeria no doubt is rich in culture and diversity. Follow us as we show you the rich and accurate cultural heritage of this great nation, Nigeria.  Kindly  Follow on Instagram,  like on Facebook, and Twitter and check us out our amazing documentaries on Youtube. You won’t regret you did.

read more

Sokoto; A Mix Of The Modern Capital and Ancient Sokoto Caliphate

Sokoto Caliphate

The Modern-Day Sokoto

Located in northwest Nigeria, Sokoto sits near the confluence of the Sokoto River and the Rima River. Sokoto is the modern-day capital of Sokoto State (and its predecessor, the north-western State).


The name Sokoto is of an Arabic origin which means market, commonly called “The seat of the caliphate” or the Sokoto Caliphate. Sokoto is in the north-west of Nigeria near the confluence of the Sokoto River and the Rima River, with a population of about three 3.7million people.



Being the former seat of the caliphate, most of its inhabitants are Muslims and greatly depend on Agriculture and Craft making for livelihood. The city also shares boundaries with Kebbi and Zamfara states. The city is greatly decorated with many tourist attractions, most of which are historical sites.

The Sultan of Sokoto’s Palace is a major archaeological and historical site. It is a majestic building constructed in 1808 to house the Sultan of Sokoto who is the traditional and spiritual leader of the city and 65 million Muslims in Nigerians. The trumpeters and the entire inhabitants dress in beautiful regalia during special occasions and shower praises on the Sultan in scintillating style.

The Surame Cultural landscape which was declared an ancient Nigerian National Monument 1964 is also located in Sokoto state. It was built by the first king in the 16th century. The city contained fourteen gates, made up of seven great gates connecting the city to the outside world, and the other seven sare destroyed, there are a few still standing, including the “ Dashe Tree Gate”.

Within the Surame Cultural Landscape is a baobab tree which has a history of the nagging wife of Kanta who was thrown in the trunk. The trunk is called “Siradi”. It is a place where trails were carried out on offenders in the kingdom, traditionally. It is believed that if a person falls into the Siradi, he is going to hell, and anyone who escapes will dwell in paradise.


Other Tourist Destinations

Other tourist destinations of unique Archaeological features and great historical background in Sokoto are:

The Usman Dan Fodio Tomb (the tomb of the founder of the Sokoto caliphate), and
• The Danfodiyo University (UDUSOK), Waziri Junaidu History & Culture museum (houses, reserves, and display all relics and tells the story of the people in a unique way through art)
The Goronyo Dam, which supplies water within Sokoto, and Kebbi state.

Goronyo Dam, Sokoto, Nigeria | Source:

• The Shehu Kangiwa Square, which was dedicated to the first civilian governor of the city.

Embed from Getty Images

You can contact Experiencing Naija for more details?

Follow on Instagramlike on Facebook, and Twitter and check us out on Youtube.

read more

The Birth of Religion and Education In Idanre

Idanre Hills

What defines a person or a place is their experiences; their war stories, testimonies, scars and the survivors, and that is something that the little town of Idanre has in bulk, wearing its scars on its walls, carrying the footsteps of its heroes in the rocks, the names of those heroes on the leaves of its trees. The town looks its best when you are standing on the top of its mountains looking at the people who have pride and joy in their hearts because they survived and they tell these stories to their children at night. 

Idanre Hills
Idanre Hills

Idanre is a small town in Ondo state, sharing a border with Akure town which is the state capital.

In the early 1800s, missionaries first arrived in Idanre town, and as the people were traditional worshipers they naturally rejected the proposal of a new religion and education, even to the point of throwing these missionaries into the believed ‘Evil Forest’ called “IGBO-ORE”, believing they wouldn’t make it out of there alive, but the people of Idanre were in for a shock when these missionaries made it out of there alive, it was another burning furnace story for those men of God. Their survival helped move their ministry along, making the people begin to have an interest in the God they serve whom they claim is more powerful than the one they currently worship, one who just proved himself by bringing those men out of the forest.

Idanre Hills
Idanre Hills

This inspired the people of Idanre to change the name of the forest to “IGBO-OWE”. That was the birth of Christianity in Idanre, in 1819, the first primary school was built and the missionaries were the first teachers.


Kindly contact us for more info or like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram

read more