Nike Okundaye is a Nigerian Batik and Textile designer who has gone international with her informally acquired talent and creativity.
Nike is from Ogidi, Kogi State, North Central region of Nigeria. She grew up in an environment that culturally practiced weaving and dyeing of clothes.
Nike logically learnt on the job from her great-grandmother, Ibitola, who was an “adire” (tie and dye) fabric artist.
At the age of 6 Nike lost her mother. By the age 7, she also lost her grandmother. Her poor father, Nicolas Ojo Allah who was a drummer and a basket weaver could not foot her educational bills.
Nike Davies-Okundaye dropped out of school and couldn’t go any further than primary 6. Young Nike did not want to lose out so much so that she self-schooled herself on English at home.
“The type of education I had at the time was the education that is passed from parents to their children, not the education you get in a classroom. It was the practical type of education.”
Nike set off for success with her informally acquired knowledge and art skills. She is the proud owner of the Nike Art Gallery in Lagos State, and in Abuja Nigeria.
The Gallery showcases her paintings, adire designs, beadworks and batik. She has set up training centres as well in her home state Kogi and Osun State.
Her training centres are open to Nigerian undergraduates with interests in industrial training programmes in textile design. She also entertains international students. She has trained a number of students from Europe, Canada and the United States.
Nike launched the Nike Centre for Art and Culture in Osogbo, Osun state, in 1983. The training centre started off with about 20 dejected girls. She housed and trained them for free. About 3,000 young Nigerians have been trained there as well; all for free.
Nike’s art works are exhibited in many museums around the world. Her unprecedented expertise in the field made her the international art figure that she is today. She works with a total of 35, 000 artists, 15, 000 of which are Nigerians.
With no strong base of formal education, Nike Okundaye is invited all around the world to educate and train people on the basics and precepts of art.
“I have lectured and held workshops in several noble institutions across the world. Some of the universities include Harvard, Columbus, Edmonton, Ohio and in Los Angeles, among others. My first experience with teaching was in 1974. At that time, I taught people with doctoral degrees.”
Nike has grown to become an international art icon with her designs exhibited in the USA, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Italy, the Caribbean, among others.
The Nigerian multi-talented artist appears to be the rare jack of all trade and master of all.
Nike is exceptionally good in textile making, visual arts and mixed media painting. She is a culture-inclined entertainer. The 65-year old Batik artist directs dramatic performances, dances and just like her father, drums as well.
Even the White House has a taste of her talent. Bill Clinton and George Bush, have both patronized the Nigerian batik and textile guru. On his visit to Nigeria, Former President, Bill Clinton, requested to see the star behind the Nike Art Gallery.
“It was the same thing with President George Bush. I was invited to meet him in Abuja during his visit to Nigeria. I was the one that decorated the room where the president stayed during the visit. What honour can be greater than this? I feel accomplished.”
In 2000, Nike Okundaye did young Nigerian sex workers in Italy an unforgettable favor. On an invitation by the Italian government, Nike trained the Nigerians and helped them with skills that eventually took them off the streets.
For this she was awarded one of the highest national awards of merit by the Italian government in 2006.
In 2012, Nike Okundaye was appointed an honorary special advisor to Nigeria’s Minister of Culture and Tourism and National Orientation.
“I am an ardent believer that the height that we reach in this world is not as a result of our making alone but God who helps us to achieve such thing in life.”