The Bold of Art: Chief Nike Okundaye Davies

My first encounter with Chief (Mrs.) Nike Okundaye Davies was when I visited her Art Gallery at Ikate Elegushi roundabout Lekki-Epe Expressway, Lagos, Nigeria. She is a very lovely and amiable person and I am glad to do this write up on her.

Several years ago I saw a road sign saying “Nike Art”, on my way to my neighbour’s wedding. I think that was my first time of being awake while passing through Lekki-Epe expressway.

My name is Nike and I love art and every form it is presented in. So you can imagine how fast my attention was piqued when I saw this sign. That sign remained in my memory for a long time….

Some years later, I decided to seek out what “Nike Art” at that roundabout was all about. I searched on the internet till I found the gallery’s website and called Chief Nike’s Daughter, who happens to be a very cheerful lady.

The day I called happened to be a day some big exhibition was going on. I wasn’t aware of this till I got to the Art Gallery.

My first impression? Wow!!!

It was an absolutely refreshing feeling to see so much beauty under one roof. This made me more curious about the person that put all of that together.

Still in my curiosity, she came into my line of vision, her head wrap so gigantic and beautifully styled, her smile so broad and genuine. I didn’t need to be told, I was looking at Chief Mrs. Nike Okundaye Davis herself.

Mama Nike Okundaye Davies

I didn’t know when I blurted out “I’m your namesake ma”. She smile and said; “Let’s take a picture together then”.

So who is this amazing woman, whose name, works and head wrap precedes her. Let’s learn a little about Chief (Mrs.) Oyenike Monika Okundaye.

Chief (Mrs.) Oyenike Monica Okundaye is an artist and an advocate of art who has carved a niche for herself in the art sector both locally and globally. Recently, she was awarded an African Art Recognition Award by the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA).

Chief (Mrs.) Oyenike Monica Okundaye, who is popularly known as Nike is the Managing Director/CEO of Nike Center for Art and Culture, Osogbo. At the art center, she offers training free of charge to interested individuals in various forms of arts.

Mama Nike Okundaye

As an elderly person that she is, I will refer to her as Mama Nike (mama is a term used for elderly women, it means mother). Many of her aliases are “Nike Davies”, “Nike Twin Seven Seven”, “Nike Olaniyi”, “Mummy Nike” etc.

The art center was established in 1983, by Mama Nike solely from her earnings as an artist and without governmental assistance. She opened the art center with 20 young girls who roamed the streets of Osogbo aimlessly, back in the days, and who had no hopes for a future.

In their tender age, Mama Nike withdrew these girls from the streets and provided them with free food, free materials and free accommodation at her residence at Osogbo. Gradually, she began to impact her knowledge and skills on these young ladies on how to use their hands to earn decent livings through the art.

So far, over 3000 young Nigerians have been trained in the center. Many of these individuals are now earning a decent living through art.

I myself have given thought to running one of the courses at the center and still hope I create the time to do so. So many countries across the African continent now send their students to study textile art at the Nike Art Center.

School students learning adire from Nike Okundaye

School students learn adire from Nike Okundaye

Nike Okundaye Background

Mama Nike was born in 1951 in a small village called Ogidi-Ijumu in Kogi State. At the age of 6, young Nike lost her mother and had to live with her grandmother. Just a year after that, she lost her grandmother also.

Following the demise of her mother and grandmother, she had to move in with her great grandmother. This was where Nike Okundaye was principally educated in art by her great grandmother and an aunt who was an artist.

Her great grandmother was a weaver and an “Adire” textile maker/dyer during her lifetime. Adire is a form of textile art done by using indigo dye in different unique tie and dye techniques.

Related Post: The History Of Adire Textile

Growing up in such ancient environment and following the loss of two parents (her mother and grandmother) had an impact on her educational background. Nike Okundaye’s father, late Nicolas Ojo Allah, was a village traditional drummer and baskets weaver in his days.

Due to little availability of funds, he could not assist young Nike much in acquiring higher western education. All these happenings resulted in Mama Nike having no serious formal western education.

It is interesting that today, she teaches Universities and is globally acknowledged for her craft and knowledge. This, coming from a woman with no “formal western education”, is truly exceptional.

Women of Oshogbo wearing Adire Textiles in Nike Okundaye art center

Having a geniune love for various forms of art, Nike Okundaye created an Aso-Oke textile weaving center at Ogidi-Ijumu near Kabba in Kogi State in 1996. She did this also to empower the women of the village.

By employing and empowering more than 200 women in the Aso-Oke textile weaving center, Mama Nike has also contributed to adding value to the Nigerian Economy.

Related Post: The History Of Aso-Oke Textile

Nike Okundaye and young students wearing Aso-Oke sewn into Agbada

Touching more horizons with her works, she also established art galleries in 4 locations; Lagos, Osogbo, Ogidi-Ijumu and Abuja. They are called the Nike Art Galleries and the art works on display are professionally curated by Mama Nike.

Nike Art Gallery at Lekki Ikate Roundabout

Nike Art Gallery at Lekki Ikate Roundabout, Lagos, Nigeria.

Mama Nike’s paintings sell at a range of about ₦500,0000 to ₦4 million. I find her story motivating because it gives reassurance that if you set your heart to achieve something in this life, and embrace life with a happy spirit and positive mind, you can be whatever you want to be.

To emphasis the extent of her global recognition, a biography was published of Chief (Mrs.) Oyenike Monika Okundaye. This biography is widely recommended for university students studying African arts and cultures in the USA and it is titled “THE WOMAN WITH THE ARTISTIC BRUSH” by the author by Ms. Kim Marie Vaz

Click play in the video below to watch a Nike Okundaye interview

Art passes a message to all those who come across it and there is art in almost everything around us, we just need to look closely and open our minds. It has the power to heal a broken spirit, soothe wounded hearts and can also cast the darkest moods on the beholder.

With art, I am always reminded of the saying; “We all look, but see differently”. I will recommend art any day, it is no wonder even hospitals put up works of art as a form of therapeutic healing.

The tenacity with which Mama Nike has embraced her art and taught it to others is inspiring. The way she wears her art as a signature and put them on her walls are quite interesting also. This is why I call her the Bold of Art.

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

– Edgar Degas

As a true artist at heart, this is part of what inspired Nike Okundaye to open her art galleries. She wanted to display the art works of other dedicated and talented artists. She believed there is need for other people’s voices to be heard through their art.

Oba (King) of Ido Osun dancing at the Nike Art Centre with Nike Okundaye and others cheering him on

Oba (King) of Ido Osun dancing at the Nike Art Centre with Nike Okundaye and others cheering him on Photo Credit: Trip Advisor

Mama Nike has lived a full and fruitful life, she and some members of her family reside at Oshogbo. She is a true blessing to our country Nigeria, as she has touched countless lives in her time. I am many Africans and other world art enthusiasts are proud of her.

Nike Okundaye with family

Nike Okundaye and some of her beautiful family

Thank you for reading till the end, I hope you found Chief (Mrs.) Oyenike Monika Okundaye’s story inspiring. There is still so much to be told about the vibrant and bold artist but only so much can be written in one article *winks*.

Many of the facts in this article were sourced from Nike Art and Nike Art Centers websites.

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