Many would have heard of the largest art gallery in West Africa that houses over 8,000 art collections from various artist, which also draws lovers of art from all over the globe. Think of an art and research center that freely trains art enthusiast. Imagine a five story building filled with just art and also houses a theater, solely for plays, the Nike art gallery is truly a wonder to behold. What is now a famous tourist site was the brainchild of an uneducated woman who against all odds has achieved so much through hard work and determination to excel. Born on May 23rd 1951 in Ogidi-Ijumu, Kogi State, Nigeria, to a poor parent, Chief (Mrs) Oyenike Davies-Okundaye’s rise from grass to grace is one to give a stern motivation.

With various traditional titles and recognitions which include “Yeye Oba” of Ogidi-Ijumu land, the “Yeye Tasase” of Osogbo land and “Yeye Gbasaga” of Ijumu Kingdom, Chief Nike has excelled in a niche many have termed local. Losing her mom at a tender age of 6 and her maternal grandmother (who died from the shock of losing her daughter who wasn’t up to 30 years old), Chief Nike had to live with her great grandmother. Without a formal education as a result of her parent’s financial woes, she learnt traditional weaving and textile dyeing from her grandmother in Ogidi-Ijumu, Kogi State. Now a member of various professional bodies which include; Member of the Board of Trustee of Osun state center for black culture and international understanding, Society of Nigerian Women Artists, Society of Nigeria Artists amongst many more.

Chief Nike, through art has excelled greatly irrespective of little or no education. Also a recipient of various national and international awards, Chief Nike’s artistic prowess has permeated through thick boundaries thereby opening opportunities for many who now find art as a safe heaven. Chief Nike has showcased her art globally at major exhibitions and festivals including in the USA, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, the United Kingdom and in Nigeria as well.

In various interviews, she recounts her days as a young child born into a poor home. Sometimes, there was no food and whenever they had to cook, her parents would put a stone in a pot that was on fire pretending it was yam. Still unperturbed by her parent’s circumstances, she had a desire to become a doctor all because of the white neat uniform worn by them but couldn’t as a result of financial incapability to sponsor such desire. Since her mother was late and her great grandmother was of old age, she had to fend for herself and her younger brother by hawking Adire on the street of Oshogbo.

Her father, who was a musician and also into textile, was too poor to take care of them. When Chief Nike was 13 years old, her dad attempted to marry her off to a 60-year-old man as his 5th wife of which she vehemently rejected. In other to compel her to do his bidding, her dad had her locked in a room and restricted people from seeing her. On a particular day, she banged on the door and yelled violently requesting to be allowed to step out so as to ease herself. After gaining her dads permission but not without a guard’s watchful eyes, she stepped out and also requested for privacy. When she was left alone by the guard, she ran away into the bush and away from her village. She first got married at age 19 and remarried 15 years later before settling with her current husband. Blessed with 7 children though she lost one, Chief Nike has had to endure and persevere all challenges life had thrown her way.

Irrespective of her inability to communicate in English, through her Adire and handwork, Chief Nike rose in fame and stature. In 1983, she established the Nike center for art and culture, Oshogbo, from earnings gotten from sales of her arts and without government assistance. With a burning desire to help as many as she could, Chief Nike took in 20 young girls roaming the street, gave them free food and accommodation and taught them how to earn decently through art. In 1996, Chief Nike established a textile weaving center at ogidi-ijumu, near kogi state. In 2002, she started an art and culture research center in Abuja which was the first of its kind in Nigeria.

Incorporating these establishments at various times, her art centers has trained and equipped over 3000 young Nigerians and many more foreign students on African arts and cultures. Though uneducated, Chief Nike lectures in various citadel of learning, teaching art making and African culture, including the Ivy League Harvard university. Known for her simple nature and motherly love and care for young girls, Chief Nike is never scared of making mistakes especially in English and she’s always ready to take corrections. With this mentality, she has greatly improved in her English speaking.  The art centers now serve as a rich source of knowledge for traditional arts and culture to scholars and institutions.




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