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Body Vessel Clay: Black Women, Ceramics & Contemporary Art

An exhibition in London this winter, called Body Vessel Clay: Black Women, Ceramics and Contemporary Art, showcases the amazing ways in which black women have disrupted the field of ceramics over the past 70 years. Chief among them is Ladi Kwali, a Nigerian artist, who inspired and mentored several of the other artists whose work will be on display. Born in 1925, Kwali is hardly unknown. Her pots can be found in the collections of the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her image graces the back of Nigeria’s 20 naira note. And she is not short of high-profile admirers. Multi-media artist Simone Leigh has spoken of how “discovering a really beautiful water pot” by Kwali inspired her to become an artist. Kwali also had a profound influence on the Kenyan-born British studio potter Magdalene Odundo, who trained with her in Nigeria in the 1970s, and who herself has held the record for the most expensive ceramic by a living artist since Sotheby’s sold a rounded pot with an elongated trumpet-like neck glazed in orange, brown and black for £378,000 last year.