feature: “nigerian woman who has no formal education but lectures at harvard” – celebrated artist nike davies-okundaye
By Eye Candy
May 22, 2015
Meet Nike Davies-Okundaye: the accomplished artist, textiles designer, and ambassador for African arts and craftsmanship. NewsAcross recently featured the artist (and her inspiring story), an artist who lectures at top academic institutions despite having no formal training. Okundaye, who came out of the 60’s Osogbo Art Movement and who has exhibited all over the world, received most of her art training (adire making, dyeing, weaving, painting and embroidery) vocationally from her great grandmother. Read some excerpts from the NewsAcross feature below (plus video via Gallery of African Art).
By Alexander Aplerku, AFROPUNK Contributor
Not many in her homeland appear to know about her unique story. But in other lands, especially Europe and America, she is a ‘goddess’ whose works are cherished by kings and presidents. Without a doubt, the story of Nike Okundaye, the face behind the huge success story of Nike Arts Gallery, located in Lagos, Abuja and Osogbo, is as compelling as it is inspiring. At a time when young Nigerians are in desperate need of a role model and inspiration in what self-belief and hard work can achieve, Nike’s rise from the status of an unknown village girl born into a seeming insignificant family in a rustic village to a globally celebrated icon would make an A-list inspirational novel.
“I come from a family of craftsmen. My parents were crafts people from Ogidi in Ijumu Local Government Area, Kogi State. My life as an artist is something that I was born with. I started weaving at the age of six.“I started with weaving different things, including adire, a traditional Yoruba hand-painted cloth design. As a matter of fact, I can say everything that had to do with textile. They taught me how to weave, using a little calabash. Gradually, I graduated to using bigger materials.”
Among Nike’s proudest achievements was her invitation to Italy by the Italian government in 2000 to train young Nigerian sex workers on how to use their hands to engage in creative ventures. Her invitation was as a result of complaints to the Italian government by the young Nigerians that they left Nigeria in search of work, not knowing what they would be forced into. When Nike got to Italy, she taught them skills in craft making and many of the women became self-reliant in no time and stopped their old means of income. In 2006, she 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 sex workers in Italy.
“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.” Interestingly, all the education she had at the time, according to her, was the traditional education that parents pass onto their children. “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,” she said with a wry smile.
Get The Latest
Signup for the AFROPUNK newsletter