Nike Davies Okundaye, an Award-winning veteran textile designer, has pioneered a global revival of Nigeria's ancestral dark blue cloth-dyeing art.
66 year old Nike was born in 1951 in a small village called Ogidi in the Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State.
Nike Okundaye lost her mother at the age of 6. Her late father Nicolas Ojo who was a village traditional drummer and baskets weaver in his days could not help her much to acquire higher western education; thereby making her drop out of school in primary 6. She was then trained and brought up by her great-grandmother and an aunt who was an artist.
Watching her great grandmother in the art of “Adire” textile processing and helping out with the processes, she walked up the line to become an expert in “Adire” textile making, painting and embroidery as that was the initial way vocational training was passed down from parents to children in Yoruba communities in Nigeria.
Her natural talent soon blossomed, but her foray into the art world wasn't easy. In 1968, she began selling her creations from her bedroom, which served as a makeshift gallery.
Her unique approach of fusing traditional styles with modern techniques has established her as a household name in textile design.
Her artwork has won several accolades and has sold for thousands of dollars at international art auctions.
Four decades on, "Mama Nike" as she is called by many, is the proud owner of West Africa's largest art gallery in Lagos, which attracts customers from around the world.
While she has enjoyed success abroad, her attention is focused on her homeland, where she's embarked on a mission to improve the lives of disadvantaged Nigerian women through art. She established a world-class craftsmanship centre known as Nike Centre for Arts and Culture, in Osogbo, Osun State in 1983.
The centre has provided training for hundreds of aspiring young men and women as the teachers instruct students in sculpture, paintings, bead work, mosaic, batik, adire, applique, pen and ink paintings; quilting, drum making and dancing.
In 2009, her quest to further promote, enhance, sustain and provide enabling environment for the growth of African cultural heritage in Nigeria made her build an ultra-modern cultural art centre at Lekki Peninsula, Lagos. The building which was opened in September 2009 is an Art Gallery with a large stock of Nigerian and African art.
In the last 20 years, Nike Okundaye has toured several European countries and United State organizing workshops on traditional Nigerian textiles and showcasing her major art works. She has participated in scores of international shows and has bagged dozens of awards.
She has organized over 102 solo art exhibitions and has participated in 36 group art exhibitions in her artistic life. Her 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 her major art works “Liberal Women Protest March (Parts 1 & 2)” were collected by the prestigious Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington DC, USA for permanent display in 2012.
In June 2013, she was presented with a golden plaque, titled “Life Achievement Award” by the Ogidi Development Union in Kogi State in recognition of her contribution to the development of Ogidi.
In March 2014, Nike Okundaye 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.