Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye is an internationally renowned batik artist – who without a degree was able to revive the almost dying culture of Adire. Born and raised in Ogidi – Ijumu, 1951, a small village in Western Nigeria. Ijumu is popularly known for its striking rock formation and traditional art industry.
Nike Davies Okundaye owes her talent to her parents and great grandmother who were also artisans. She grew up learning artistic skills in traditional weaving and dying practice – Adire making, indigo dying and leather.
Aside her remarkable artisan skills, it was Nike’s steadfast commitment to preserve and innovate her culture that enabled her attain a new height of her career. While it’s not every day you here a success story despite surrounding impoverishment and factors – Nike Davies, a daughter of a poor traditional artisan like many others belonging to same status quo did not receive any formal education in art or in any learning institution. In fact, she was left with no other option that to leave school in class six to earn traditional crafts passed on from generations by the women in her family.
Today, Davies-Okundaye educates a long list generation of artisans free of charge through art centers across the country, Nigeria.
She tells Forbes Africa “I lost my mother when I was six and I lost my grandmother when I was seven. The knowledge was passed on to me by my great-grandmother who was the head of all the weavers in our village.”
The death of both mother and grandmother led her to spending more time with her great-grandmother – a renowned adire specialist (the traditional art of fabric dyeing of southwest Nigeria (Yoruba mainly)). She also began the fifth generation of fabric on traditional looms.
Starting at early age of seven (7) learning the vocation, Davies quickly developed her own style and technique (weaving and painting) from the family’s many artisanal specializations. She was however forced to stop after her family wanted to marry her out at the age of 14.
She tells Forbes: “They married me to a minister who already had four (4) wives! This is why I ran way from home and joined a travelling theater.”
A turning point in her life. Here escapade took her to Osogbo, Nigeria where she developed and became skilled in adire. She went on to sell her work in 1968 – starting her art career.
After a successful exhibition in Kenya, 1972 and an international tour in 1974, Nike brought back with her a grater passion for arts – one that has led to philanthropy via her eponymous art centers.
These art centers were launched in 1983 – where she worked with women on the streets of Oshogbo. With her skills in Adire, painting, weaving and other traditional arts. She went on to open other centers across other Nigerian cities: Lagos, Abuja and Ogidi (her hometown).
Nike’s International success has enabled her to launch a cultural revival in Nigeria – offering free training to more than 150 artists in visual, musical and performing arts.
Nike’s largest art gallery (also largest in West Africa) comprises over 7,000 artworks. Her works have been exhibited in Nigeria and round the globe: USA, Nigeria, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Italy and United Kingdom.
|2002||Nike was awarded and admitted as a fellow of the institute of The Pan – African Circle of Artists of Nigeria in recognition of her commitment to the promotion of art education in Nigeria.|
|2002||Nike was bestowed with an award of distinction by the National Association of Kogi State Students in recognition of her efforts in promoting Art awareness among the youths in Nigeria.|
|2003||A certificate of merit was awarded to Nike by the Okun Yoruba people of Kogi State of Nigeria in recognition of her efforts in youth development in Nigeria.|
|2004||Nike was awarded an honorary certificate of merit by the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Osun State Chapter in recognition of her contribution to the advancement of Nigerian cultural heritage.|
|2005||Department of Fine Art, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile – Ife awarded Nike a certificate of merit in recognition of her efforts in the promotion of art education in Nigeria.|
|2005||National Commission for Museum and Monument of Nigeria awarded Nike a certificate of excellence in recognition of her efforts in the development of Nigerian cultural heritage.|
|May 2006||Nike 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 prostitutes (sex workers) in Italy.|
|2009||The “CEPAN Foundation” of Nigeria awarded Nike a plaque of honor for being the African Art Icon of the year.|
|2010||National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) of Nigeria presented Nike with a golden plaque of honor in recognition of her noble role in the fight towards drugs free Nigeria society.|
|2010||Osun State Council for Art & Culture presented Nike with a golden plaque of excellence for being one of the leading “Patron of Art & Culture” in the State.|
|2011||The “Northern States Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture” presented Nike with a crystal plaque of honor for her leadership and entrepreneurship roles in Nigerian commerce and industry.|
|2011||The Art Galleries Association of Nigeria (AGAN) in collaboration with the Nigerian National Gallery of Art (NGA) presented Nike with a plaque and a certificate of honor for art dealer of the year.|
|2011||The SISI-OGE Foundation of Nigeria awarded Nike a crystal plaque for her outstanding dedication in the promotion of Nigerian cultural heritage.|
|2012||The Business and Professional Women of Nigeria Association honored Nike for her Outstanding and Leadership quality in area of her entrepreneurial spirit and her role as a change agent in promoting art and culture globally and for the empowerment of rural community women and young people.|
|November 2012||Nike was presented a plaque of honor ward by the Female Artists Association of Nigeria (FAAN) for her support and contribution to the growth and development of Female Artists in Nigeria.|
|December 2012||Nike was presented a plaque of honour ward by the National Council for Art & Culture (NCAC) in Abuja in recognition of her efforts in the promotion of Nigerian Creative Industry and Empowerment through Visual Art.|
|May 2013||Nike was presented with a golden trophy by the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos in appreciation of her contributions to the development of the National Museum in Lagos.|
|June 2013||Nike was presented with a golden plaque, titled “Life Achievement Award” by the Ogidi Development Union in Kogi State in recognition of her efforts in the development of Ogidi village in Kogi State of Nigeria, her birth place.|
|March 2014||Nike was invited by the First Lady of Kogi State under the auspices of “Kogi State Women Association of Nigeria” and she was awarded “Women Inspirational Award – 2014” in recognition of her efforts in motivating and economically empowering the rural women of Kogi State.|
Artistic Education and Global Actions
|1974||One of the ten African artists who toured 50 America statesand taught arts in various crafts institutions in the USA sponsored by USIS, Lagos.|
|1981||Won the first prize during the SOUTH WEST ARTS FESTIVAL in Washington DC|
|1983||Sponsored by Nigeria Arts Council, Lagos to represent Nigeria at a workshop held at the Museum of Natural History, New York, USA.|
|1985||One of the six women artists to exhibit at the African Heritage Kenya during the World Women Conference held in Nairobi, sponsored by the UN.|
|1986||Nike was the only Nigeria woman who represented Nigeria in an exhibition featuring African women artists held at the African Centre, London. That exhibition was sponsored by AKINA MAMA WA AFRICA, London|
|1989||One of two Nigerian women – her and Sokari Douglas , who represented Nigeria in an exhibition held at the women museum in Washington DC. USA.|
|1991||Sponsored by USIA for educational visits to many institutions of higher learning and museums in USA.|
|1991||Nike and Sokari Douglas Camp co-featured as the only Nigerian women artists in a film “KINDRED SPIRITS” produced by Smith Sonia on Nigerian artists which was a television documentary in USA and Canada.|
|1991||Sponsored by the CUSO of Canada to a conference of Black Artists held in Toronto Canada to celebrate African identity, where she was the only Nigerian artist who exhibited her art works and held workshops at that conference.|
|1992||only African who represented the continent of Africa in an exhibition organized by BMW Company, Munich Germany during their anniversary celebration|
|1994||One of the 50 world artists selected to exhibit their works in a film; a documentary in-put for the anniversary that was exhibited in South African – during the celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the UN.|
|November 1994||Nike exhibited her art works at the Royal York Hotel, Toronto Canada during the 37th annual conference of the African Studies Association of USA and Canada.|
|1995||One of the ten (10) African artists who had exhibition at the African Heritage in Nairobi, Kenya.|
|1996||Held an exhibition at the University Of Tampa Florida, USA. Followed by|
|1997||Held an exhibition at the prestigious ‘Schobgarten Galleria’ in SCHOBGARTEN, Germany.|
|1998||Nike held an exhibition at the University of Wisconsin,|
|1998||Went with her cultural troupe to Antwerp, Belgium to perform at the Wereld Cultural Center in Antwerp.|
|1999||Nike held an exhibition at Northern Michigan University, USA.|
|2000||Designed for the Nigerian pavilion at the Expo 2000 in Hanover, German with her artwork also exhibited.|
|June 2000||Invited to Italy by the CISV of Italy and Caritas of Italy to organize art exhibitions and art workshops in Turin to address the problem of female prostitution in that country.|
|October 2000||Invited with her cultural troupe by the Nigerian Ambassador to Netherlands to perform at the Hurge in celebration of the Nigerian 40th independence anniversary.|
|2001||Went with her cultural group to Antwerp, Belgium to perform at the Wereld Cultural Center in Antwerp|
|2001||Nike held an exhibition at the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. USA.|
|2002||Invited to Hollywood for an art exhibition during Pan African Film and Art Festival (PAFF).|
|2002||In Denison University, Granville Ohio. USA for an art workshop and lecture.|
|2002||In Bowling Green State University, Toledo Ohio, USA to hold art workshops and lectures.|
|June 2002||Invited as a special guest artist in resident during the commonwealth festival of art in Manchester, UK|
|July 2002||Had exhibitions in Ausgburg, Germany during the La Piassa art festival.|
|August 2002||In Calgary, Canada for exhibitions during the “Afrikadey” annual festival.|
|November 2002||At the Dartmouth University, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA as artist in resident, holding exhibitions, art workshops and lectures.|
|December 2002||Attended the annual meeting of the African Studies Association of USA and Canada which holds in Washington DC.|
|February 2003||Special guest artist in resident at the Pan African Film and Art Festival in Los Angeles USA where she awarded certificate of honor by the County of Los Angeles, California, USA.|
|September 2003||Invited by Belgium government with her cultural troupe to perform amongst other cultural troupes from other 40 African countries at Antwerp cultural centre.|
|February 2004||Nike was artist in resident at the University of California, Berkeley, USA.|
|July 2004||Artist in resident at the International Folk Art Festival at Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.|
|October 2004||Appointed a member of the UNESCO Committee of the Nigerian Intangible Cultural Heritage Project|
|May 2005||Nike was a guest artist in resident at the African Art Festival in Wurzburg, Germany.|
|June 2005||In Graz, Austria with her cultural troupe to perform and show case Nigerian art at Maria Moser Centre.|
|May 2006||Appointed a board member of the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria Tourism Board at Abuja, Nigeria.|
|January 2007||Selected and sponsored by the United States of America to participate as a facilitator/panelist at the world conference of “Vital Voices Pan-African Leadership Summit & Initiative for Women and Girls.|
|March 2007||Invited by the University of South Florida, Tampa to conduct workshops and lectures at the department of women studies and art history, on batik and traditional African textile (Adire).|
|April 2007||Invited by Harvard University, Cambridge to conduct workshops and lectures on batik and technique of adire textile processing and African dyeing techniques.|
|2008||invited by University of Alberta, Edmonton Canada to conduct workshops and lectures on African batik and the technique of Adire textile processing and African dyeing methods.|
|August 2009||Invited by the promoters of “Afrikadey” annual festival of Calgary, Canada to exhibit her works and conduct workshops on Adire processing during the six days festival.|