64 Cheers For Quintessential Artist, Davies-Okundaye
When print artist, Mrs. Nike Davies-Okundaye celebrated her 64th birthday at The Nike Arts Gallery, Lekki, Lagos, it was a grand occasion as artists, curators, collectors and media personalities shared a great moment with the celebrant.
Among the highlights of the event was a musical performance by an all-girls singing group, Nefertiti and Adunni which did folk songs of different tribes and culture taken from across Nigeria’s diverse cultures.
Dressed in their traditional performance costume of beads and native attire, they enchanted the audience with their songs and dances. In addition, there was an orchestra of talking drummers who entertained the guests and made the day very colourful and exciting.
Quite a number of short speeches were delivered at the event to stress the contributions of the celebrant to the development of Nigerian arts and culture scene. For example, former editor of The Guardian on Sunday, Mr. Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo said, ‘’Davies-Okundaye has contributed immensely to the advancement of Nigerian arts at home and abroad. I don’t think there is any other woman that can be compared to her. She did not only create art to further her own career, she showed active interest in training younger artists.”
Anikulapo recalled how Davies-Okundaye took the traditional adire batik textile design of her Yoruba people to the top and gave it international recognition particularly in the arts community. He described the artist “as legendary, iconic and inspiring. The number of people who have developed their crafts and career under Okundaye-Davies cannot be underestimated. I think she deserved to be ranked high in the arts as Wole Soyinka is ranked in literature. Nike is one of those Nigerian women who make the country proud.”
Also, Femi Alao, a singer, said, ‘’Nike is an inspiration to many artists, not only visual artists but also performing artistes. Just because she is a painter and textile designer does not mean that she does not have influence in other arts. She is like an umbrella or an Iroko tree under which all of us obtain inspiration and motivation. As you can see this show has included a lot of packages in music, dance and visual arts. It is a reflection of her overall influence in so many Nigerian arts.’’
During a chat Davies-Ekundayo stated, ‘’The art that I practise is usually passed from one generation to another generation and I would say that I am in the sixth generation from my own family.
My great grandmother was the head of all the craft women in the village. I was born in Ogidi on May 23, 1951 in a small, remote area in Kogi State called Ogidi Ijumu.
‘’I started this art form when I was six years old and then I continued until I finished my primary school. The way they imparted education to kids in those days was that your parents would teach you whatever they are doing.
That was how art was passed to me from my great grandmother.
I always give thanks to God and the American government which gave me the opportunity to travel with a team that was selected in Africa in 1974 to travel to 50 states in America and also to teach the crafts of our people to the people of the United States of America.
There is a craft school in the states of Maryland, and we were recruited from Africa in 1974. I was the only female and we went on the tour and after we finished the tour, they sent us to different universities and they told us to look and see what we will bring back that will benefit our people and our own country.
So, I looked and said wao! There is a lot to bring back home”.