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Water Jar

Ladi Kwali
circa 1955

A large water jar made of stoneware, incised and decorated with glaze. It is decorated with images of lizards, fish, chameleons and other birds and insects, cut into the surface of the clay.

Made at Abuja Pottery, Nigeria.

Ladi Kwali was the most celebrated of Nigerian potters in the pioneering period of the 1950s. She met Englishman, Michael Cardew in 1951 at his Pottery Training Centre in Abuja and she had a profound impact on his approach to working in Nigeria and the pots that he made. He, in turn transformed her pots and helped to make her an international celebrity.

They developed a new style which brought together European and African technique and aesthetic ideas.

This form is based on a traditional earthenware water pot, designed to keep water cool through evaporation. Once a waterpot is remade in stoneware it becomes useless – water no longer evaporates and the pot is too heavy to be carried. However, it is now an artistic, decorative object.

These pots, with their traditional Nigerian decoration became highly sought after in Europe and the United States and Ladi Kwali visited Britain where she became well known for her demonstrations of her handbuilding (coiling) technique. This pot was previously in the collection of Michael Cardew at Wenford Bridge.