Nike Davies-Okundaye Biography and Profile

Chief Nike Okundaye (Nike Davies-Okundaye) was born May 23rd 1951 in Nigeria. Nike Okundaye is one of the internationally known and renowned female designers and artists. She was brought up amidst the traditional weaving and dying practice in her native village of Ogidi in Western Nigeria. Her artistic skills were nurtured by her parents and great grandmother, who were musicians and craftspeople specialising in the area of cloth weaving, adire making, indigo dying and leather. Read more...
Nike Okundaye - Nike Davies-Okundaye - NIGERIA NEWS HEADLINE - Nigerian
Nike Okundaye - Nike Davies-Okundaye

Nike Okundaye (Nike Davies-Okundaye) was born May 23rd 1951 in Nigeria. Chief (Mrs.) Nike Monica Okundaye popularly known and called “MAMA NIKE” by her numerous fans, is a multi talented, award winning artist and social entrepreneur. She is a painter, a textile artist, weaver, and embroiderer. As a social entrepreneur and a philanthropist, she is well known for championing the cause of the neglected Nigerian rural women using art as a tool to self emancipation. Nike Centre for Art and Culture, in Osogbo has trained over 3000 young Nigerians (mainly violated and abused young women) who have gone on to earn decent living through art. Amongst her numerous awards is the 2006 “Ordine Della Stella Della Solidarieta Italiana” one of the highest Italian national awards of merit given 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. Nike is happily married with children.

Nike Davies-Okundaye Full Biography and Profile

Chief Nike Okundaye (Nike Davies-Okundaye) was born May 23rd 1951 in Nigeria. Nike Okundaye is one of the internationally known and renowned female designers and artists. She was brought up amidst the traditional weaving and dying practice in her native village of Ogidi in Western Nigeria. Her artistic skills were nurtured by her parents and great grandmother, who were musicians and craftspeople specialising in the area of cloth weaving, adire making, indigo dying and leather.

Nike spent the early part of her life in Oshogbo which is recognised as one of the major centres for art and culture in Nigeria. During her stay in Oshogbo, her informal training was dominated by indigo and adire. She is today a proud product of the famous Oshogbo Art School.

The dynamism of Nike’s compositions, coupled with the complexity and firm structure, emerge in her textile designs particularly for the adire and batiks. Nike brings to her adire a vivid imagination as well as a wealth of history and tradition regulating the production of adire. Adire is the traditional Yoruba hand painted cloth. Traditional adire designs are a myriad, full of meaning and history, which are combined into larger overall patterns with names that are universally recognised in the Yoruba culture. She seeks to re-establish the value of adire as art, and to increase the appreciation of this meticulously designed, hand produced textile. For many years, this veteran adire artist has created both adire and batik works that glorify the social practices and the cosmic drama of Yoruba tradition. The prevailing indigo colour of her textiles accentuates the aura, mystery and beauty of her designs.

Nike has used her international success to launch a cultural revival in Nigeria. She is the founder and director of four art centres which offer free training to over 150 young artists in visual, musical and performing arts – one of which is the largest art gallery in West Africa, compromising over 7,000 artworks. The centre also serves as a rich source of knowledge for traditional arts and culture to scholars and institutions.

From her first solo exhibition at the Goethe Institute, Lagos in 1968, Nike has grown to become one of the major names on the international art circuit. In 2013 Chief Nike’s painting with the famous adire symbols in the background was accepted by the world’s largest museum, The Smithsonian. She ‘represents the new breed of African female artist, many of whose realities are now international, though in essence they are perpetuating the living tradition of female artists and ‘cloth-queens’, controlling heady empires of fabric- wealthy powerful women’. Nike is known all over the world for promoting her designs through exhibitions and workshops in Nigeria, USA, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Italy, to mention a few.

Nike Okundaye Membership of Professional Bodies

Society of Nigerian Artists, ASA of USA and Canada, ACASA, Society of Nigerian Women Artists, Member of Osun Support Grove, Board member of the National Heritage Council of Nigeria, Member of the Board of Trustee of Osun State Centre For Black Culture and International understanding, etc.

Nike Okundaye Business Interest

Nike is the Managing Director/CEO of Nike Center for Art and Culture, Osogbo where trainings are offered free of charge to all Nigerians in various forms of arts. The center was established in 1983, by Nike solely from her earnings as an artist and without governmental assistance. Nike opened this center with 20 young girls who were marching the streets in Osogbo aimlessly and who had no hopes for the future. In their tender age, Nike withdrew these girls from the streets and provided them with free food, free materials and free accommodation at her residence at Osogbo and taught them how to use their hands to earn decent livings through the art. So far, over 3000 young Nigerians have been trained in the center and who are now earning their decent livings through art. Many African countries now send their students to study textile art at the center.

The Nike Center for Art and Culture, Osogbo now admits undergraduate students from many universities in Nigeria for their industrial training programs in textile design. Over the years, this center also now admits students from all over Europe, Canada and the United States of America. International scholars and other researchers in traditional African art and culture also visit the center from time to time for their research works into Yoruba “Adire” fabric processing and African traditional dyeing methods.

Nike is also the Owner/Curator of the Nike Art Galleries at Lagos, Osogbo, Ogidi-Ijumu and Abuja. In 1996, Nike established a textile (Aso-Oke) weaving center at Ogidi-Ijumu near Kabba in Kogi State for the women of the village, employing and empowering more than 200 women in the weaving center. In June 2002, Nike established an Art and Culture research center at Piwoyi village, FCT Abuja with an art gallery and a textile museum, the first of its kind in Nigeria which will provide functional platform for research into Nigerian traditional textile industry in the Federal Capital Territory area of Abuja. In furtherance of these noble endeavors, Nike is currently the managing director and founder of the following organizations in Nigeria; “Nike Art Productions Limited” which she incorporated in 1994, “Nike Art Gallery Limited” which she incorporated in 2007 and the “Nike Research Centre for Art and Culture Limited” which she incorporated in 2007. Also in 2007, Nike founded the “Nike Art and Culture Foundation” with some notable eminent Nigerians as trustees, with the main aims and objectives of fostering Nigerian cultural heritage.

Artistic Education and Global Actions

Nike was principally educated in art by her great grandmother whom Nike lived with after the death of her mother and grandmother. Her great grandmother was a weaver and an “Adire” textile maker/dyer during her lifetime. It is therefore, interesting to observe that Nike had no serious formal western education because of lack of fund. Her parents were quite poor and they could not fund her education. The truth is that, Nike lost her mother at the age of 6 and her grandmother at the age of 7. Her father, late Nicolas Ojo Allah who was a village traditional drummer and baskets weaver in his days could not help her much to acquire higher western education.

Nike stopped schooling at primary 6 school level at her village at Ogidi-Ijumu in Kogi State of Nigeria. However, Nike went ahead to teach herself English at home. She never went to school to study art which had brought her to global spotlight. Vocational training in art was passed down to her by her great grandmother, late madam Ibikunle who was an “Adire” textile maker and a dyer of fabric during her days in the village of Ogidi-Ijumu, Nike’s birth place. Watching her great grandmother in the art of “Adire” textile processing and helping her out in “Adire” making, Nike walked up the line to become an expert in “Adire” textile making, dyeing, weaving, painting and embroidery. This was the way vocational training was passed down from parents to children in Yoruba communities in those days in Nigeria.

Nike steadily built upon what her great grandmother taught her and went ahead to develop her own style and technique in textile design and painting, and how to effectively present them for exhibitions. Nike is a multi talented person who was able to use her natural given ability to assist and help many less privileged. In that quest, she has been able to give hopes to the hopeless in our society. In the same vein, Nike has been able to economically and socially empower many rural women by setting up cottage weaving workshops/centers for women at Abuja, Osogbo and Ogidi-Ijumu thereby giving voices to them in their various communities. Nike’s challenges were many especially when her activities are centered at men dominated societies. The men saw her initiatives and activities to be too out in giving the so called liberties to women who were hitherto oppressed in the rural areas.

In her humble quest to further promote, enhance, sustain and provide enabling environment for the growth of African cultural heritage in Nigeria, Nike single handedly went ahead in 2009 and built a five floor ultra modern cultural art centre at Lekki Peninsula, Lagos with the main purpose of positively transforming the landscape of the hitherto neglected art and culture in Nigeria. This building was opened to public in September 2009. This building also holds Nike’s second textile museum. It also houses the 4th Nike Art Gallery in Nigeria with a large stock of Nigerian and African art of deferent media. In her keynote speech during the opening ceremony, Nike did tell the world, “I dedicate this building to the glory of God and to the Nigerian cultural heritage”. Since the opening of this building, the “Nike Cultural Art Centre” has become a cultural hub and a popular tourists’ destination in Lagos Nigeria.

From a very modest beginning without serious formal western education, Nike’s actions and initiatives have positively impacted the lives of so many who came her ways. Other than giving the benefits of her exposure to the less privileged, Nike’s works have meant and become close to a large array of dedicated fan across the globe where she has become an ambassador of good will for art and culture for her beloved country since 1974 when she first took her art works across the shores of this country to the Americas for exhibition. Her interactions cult across divide; politicians and non politicians, diplomats, scholars, business men and women, researchers, children, tourists, etc come on daily bases visiting Nike and her centers in Nigeria.

In addition to the following major international shows, Nike has had over 102 solo art exhibitions and 36 group art exhibitions in her artistic life. Nike’s art works can be found in many private homes collections and public institutions collections including schools, colleges, universities, palaces and museums all over the world. Two of Nike’s major art works “Liberal Women Protest March (Parts 1 & 2)” were collected by the Smithsonian National Museum Of African Art in Washington DC, USA for permanent display in 2012.

Nike Davies-Okundaye Timeline

1951: Born in Ogidi-Ijumu, Kogi State, Nigeria

1981: First price during the SOUTH WEST ARTS FESTIVAL, Washington DC., USA

2002: 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: 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: 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

2004: Was appointed a member of the UNESCO Committee of the Nigerian Intangible Cultural Heritage Project

2004: Artist in resident at the University of California, Berkeley, USA

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

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


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2005: Guest artist in resident at the African Art Festival in Wurzburg, Germany

2006: 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

2006: Was appointed a board member of the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria Tourism Board at Abuja, Nigeria

2007: Invited by Harvard University, Cambridge to conduct workshops and lectures on batik and technique of adire textile processing and African dyeing techniques

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)

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

2009: “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

2009: “Afrikadey” annual festival of Calgary

2005: Maria Moser Centre, Graz, Austria

2004: International Folk Art Festival at Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

2002: “Afrikadey” annual festival of Calgary

2002: La Piassa art festival, Ausgburg, Germany

2001–2002: Pan African Film and Art Festival (PAFF), Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. USA

1999: Northern Michigan University, USA (exhibition was followed by series of lectures and workshops)

1998: University of Wisconsin, USA (exhibition was followed by series of lectures and workshops)

1997: Schobgarten Galleria, Schobgarten, Germany

1996: University Of Tampa Florida, USA (exhibition was followed by series of lectures and workshops)

1995: Exhibition at the African Heritage in Nairobi, Kenya

1994: 37th annual conference of the African Studies Association of USA and Canada, Royal York Hotel, Toronto, Canada

1992: BMW Company, Munich Germany (during their anniversary celebration)

1989: Women museum, Washington DC., USA

1986: African Centre, London, UK

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