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How much do you know Nike Davies-Okundaye?

To answer you question; Chief (Mrs.) Oyenike Monica Okundaye (formerly Nike Seven Seven) was born in 1954. She is one of the leading figures of the famous Oshogbo art movement. Her art recreates Nigeria’s disappearing traditions in Imaginative and interesting ways. A world acclaimed artist and textile designer, one of her paintings is on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and she has conducted demonstration and lectures on traditional Nigerian textiles at the Harvard University and other universities in the United States, Nigeria, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy and other parts of the world. 
Okundaye is an avid champion of tradition arts and culture, she is the founder of four art centres that offer free training in Africa textile designing and visual arts in Nigeria. She was a member of UNESCO Committee of the Nigerian Intangible Culture Heritage Project in 2004. She is also an African Art Recognition Awardee. Okundaye’s works can be found in notable collection including those of the White House, the Gallery of African Arts at the British Library in London, Iwalewa-Haus, Bayruth in Germany and that of the King of Morocco.
“Artwork is a therapy. If you see a work in which a mother is carrying her baby, it means love and awareness. When you look at an artwork, you would forget your problems,” Okundaye. 
Her first solo exhibition was at the Goethe Institute, Lagos in 1968. Okundaye in Ogidi, Nigeria. She was brought up amidst the traditional weaving and dying as practised in her home town of Ogidi, Kogi State, in North Central Nigeria. Her parents and great grandmother were musicians and craftspeople, who specialised in the area of cloth weaving, adire making, indigo dying and leather.
She is a holder of traditional chieftainship titles of Yeye Oba of Ogidi-Ijumu land, the Yeye Tasase of Osogbo land and Yeye Gbasaga of Ijumu Kingdom.  
Okundaye is the only female participating in the Masters Exhibition. The show is being organised by Mydrim Gallery as part of the activities to mark its twenty-fifth anniversary. 
The exhibition of paintings sculptures, mixed media and bead works opens on Saturday, June 3 to Monday, June 4, 2018, at the Desiderata, plot 5A, Abuja Street, Banana Island, Foreshore Estate, Lagos Nigeria. And about fifty-six works by Yusuf Grillo, El Anatsui, Abayomi Barber, Jimoh Akolo, David Dale, late Bisi Fakeye, Bruce Ononrakpeya, Kolade Oshinowo, Muraina Oyelami, Jimoh Buraimoh and Gani Odutokun will be on view.
She was principally educated in art by her great-grandmother, who she 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 Okundaye 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, Okundaye 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.   
Okundaye stopped schooling at primary 6 school level at her village, Ogidi-Ijumu in Kogi State of Nigeria. However, Okundaye 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, Okundaye 's birth place. Watching her great grandmother in the art of adire textile processing and helping her out in adire making, Okundaye 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.
Okundaye 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. Okundaye 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, Okundaye has been able to economically and socially empower many rural women by setting up cottage weaving workshops/centres for women at Abuja, Osogbo and Ogidi-Ijumu thereby giving voices to them in their various communities.  Okundaye 's challenges were many especially when her activities are cantered 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, in 2009 she 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 Okundaye '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, Okundaye did tell the world, "I dedicate this building to the glory of God and to the Nigerian cultural heritage".  
From a very modest beginning without serious formal western education, Okundaye '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, Okundaye '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 Okundaye and her Art Centres in Nigeria.

By Udemma Chukwuma

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