After going through the many works of visual arts carefully and beautifully displayed within the premises of the new Nike Art Gallery, only one word can come to the mind “magnificent.” Located within a four-storey building and dedicated to Nigeria Arts and culture, the gallery contains over 168 works of visual art, which tell the history of the nation’s peoples including contemporary issues which are very important in boosting not only tourism but also the educational sector. Mrs Nike Davis Okundaye who operates the Nike centre for Arts and Culture, trains Nigerians in various forms of arts painting, sculpture, adire-making, etc. With the four centres located in Lagos, Oshogbo, Osun State, Abuja and Ogidi-Ijumu in Kogi State, Nike has trained over 4,000 Nigerians free of charge in the making and designing of different Nigerian textile clothings, embroidery and weaving. Culture and Tourism learnt that many higher institutions in Lagos now come on excursion with their students studying Fine and Applied Arts, to any of the centres of the Nike centre for Arts and Culture for detailed tutorials in embroidery and weaving. The journey so far, have been characterized with a lot of challenges bothering on funding and time consumption which according to the operator of the centre have prevented freshers from venturing into the business. She explained that the above reasons have also prevented or checked quackery in the business, thereby, leaving it solely for those who can admire and cherish the work of nature. Being a frontliner in arts and gallery, Nike is a well-known professional artist who has distinguished herself on the job. Culture and Tourism, further gathered that she began her career at the tender age of six at Ogidi-Ijumu close to Kabba in present-day Kogi State. According to our source in Kogi State, she acquired the skill from her grandmother, who raised her after the death of her mother. The source quoted her as saying that “She owes everything to her grandmother who taught her the art of embroidery, weaving and the rest, because she was the great adire maker in their village”. Although, Nike can beat her and say that she has received no support from government, the niche she has carved for herself through using arts and grafts as a means of empowerment, and in tracking social challenges such as prostitution, poverty, gender issues among others has attracted the attention of governments across the globe. As an ambassador of goodwill, the first exhibition of her works as The Tide was informed, was in 1974 in the 50 states of the United States of America (USA). That project as The Tide on Sunday further learnt, was sponsored by the United States Arts Service (USAS), where she delivered lectures in schools. In 1985, she was sponsored by the United Nations (UN) to represent African Women in the World Women conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Nike’s 30-minute address at the conference drew much attention to her and was a source of pride to other Nigerian delegates. Not too long ago, the Italian government after preserving her website, invited her to solve the problem of prostitution in the country. Through her workshops and seminars as Culture and Tourism was informed, many prostitutes in the country have quitted the sex-trade and settled for weaving and embroidery they learnt from her workshops. For this singular reason, she was awarded one of the best and highest award, by Italian government. Apart from her Sonia Merson’s Washington documentary on how to make adire, embroidery and African arts that featured Nike, students in the United States of America studying African arts must read one of her books “Women With the Artistic Hands” by kim Verse which show-cased her works. The art lover’s philanthropy knows no bounds. For instance, at the four centres apart, Nike Gallery situated at Plot 2, Elegushi Road, Ikate round about, Lekki; Lagos is open to other artists to exhibit their works free. “I don’t charge them for making use of the gallery, and I don’t interfere in their deals with their foreign customers. Unfortunately, they (the very young ones) even ask for oil and canvass in addition to the free usage of the gallery”. Our source quoted her as said. She however, have appealed with governments, oil companies and corporate bodies to come and assist these young artists to exhibit their works. Furthermore, The Tide on Sunday learnt that she has welcomed with both hands the arts festival by the Lagos State government billed for next month, saying that it is an improvement and a step forward in the exhibition of the country’s rich arts and cultural heritage. Our source, earlier, has hinted that the over 168 works of different visual artists in the four-storey gallery are not for sale, but the preserved for educating people in African arts and culture. By Kings Onunwor
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