Nike Okundaye – From Kogi With Arts
With Sally Adebayo
Whilst other trades can be learned, Artists are born! The owner of Nike Art Gallery is a craftsman of immense repute. Born in the small village of Ogidi, Kogi State, young Nike had high dreams about what type of future she wanted for herself. But her dreams were truncated even before they could take form when she lost her mother at age six rather than be disappointed with life, she rose up even at that tender age to pursue her dreams. Motivated by her grandmother and the community she started with weaving different things, including adire, a traditional Yoruba hand-painted cloth design. ‘As a matter of fact’, she says, ‘I can say everything that had to do with textile’. From the traditional tie and die, Nike gradually edged into carvings and sculptures drawing inspiration from African folk heritage and her spiritual exposures. Her traditional work is a collection that consists mainly of wood carvings of priests and stone statues of Yoruba deities. Nike also captures African tradition that dates back thousands of years, sometimes in very primitive sculptures, which are aesthetically uncomfortable, yet intriguing. Each piece has a sense of history, a back story and a trip to the Nike Arts Gallery would inspire you. Nike is today a world acclaimed artist and textile designer. She brings vivid imagination as well as a wealth of history and tradition into the production of adire. Her works are celebrated in major capitals of the world, with her designs exhibited in countries like the USA, Belgium, Germany, Japan and Italy, among others.
Among Nike’s proudest achievements was her invitation to Italy by the Italian government in 2000 to train young Nigerian sex workers on how to use their hands to engage in creative ventures. Her invitation was as a result of complaints to the Italian government by the young Nigerians that they left Nigeria in search of work, not knowing what they would be forced into. When Nike got to Italy, she taught them skills in craft making and many of the women became self-reliant in no time and stopped their old means of income. In 2006, she was awarded one of the highest Italian national awards of merit by the government of the Republic of Italy in appreciation of her efforts in using art to address and solve the problems of Nigerian sex workers in Italy. Her adire painting dots The Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum, located in Washington DC, US. Some of her works can be found amongst the collection of prominent personalities around the world, including the White House.