Abuja Pottery and Black women ceramicists in sale

A special sale celebrating the Abuja Pottery training Centre in Nigeria and the work of Black women ceramicists is now taking place on Bonhams’ website, with prices ranging from £80 to £15,000 until March 2.

Ladi Kwali (Nigerian, circa 1925-1984) Vessel
Ladi Kwali (Nigerian, circa 1925-1984), Vessel, estimated at £10,000-£15,000

The sale, entitled Abuja! Ladi Kwali & The Art of Clay, celebrates the creative output of The Abuja Pottery Training Centre in Suleja (formerly called Abuja), which was set up by British potter Michael Cardew in the 1950s. Students specialised in specific types of ceramicware, often mixing local Gwari pottery hand-building techniques, traditional shapes and decorations with Western pottery motifs.

Helene Love-Allotey, Bonhams Head of Sale, said: “Though historically overlooked, Abuja pottery is finally gaining more appreciation from collectors and museums, and we are delighted to showcase some wonderful works in our dedicated online sale. With estimates starting at just £80, this is a perfect opportunity for new collectors to become better acquainted with not only Ladi Kwali, but other incredible black women ceramists.”

Kande Ushafa Casserole Dish
Kande Ushafa Casserole Dish, estimated at £600-£900

Dr Jareh Das, curator of the recent Body Vessel Clay: Black Women, Ceramics and Contemporary Art exhibition at Two Temple Place London, commented: “Ladi Kwali’s vessels are her most famous and celebrated work. I love their intricate designs meticulously inscribed with a variety of animal and geometric patterns. They are handbuilt in the Gwari tradition, which is passed down from mother to daughter (or aunt in Kwali’s case)…

“When Kwali joined Michael Cardew’s pottery training centre in 1954 as the first female trainee, she was introduced to modern techniques of glazing and high-temperature kiln firing—transforming once functional objects for storing water into collectable decorative works. She also made a range of thrown objects: tankards, plates, dishes, bowls and more.

“Kwali received many accolades in her lifetime, including a Nigerian National Merit Award (the highest award for academic achievement), an honorary doctorate, a Member of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (M.F.R) and Member of the British Empire (MBE). She is also one of only three women to date depicted on an African currency, the Nigerian 20 Naira note.”