NiKE DAVIES OKUNDAYE

Juliet highet in “african renaissance: Contemporary nigerian art from Oshogbo and ile-ife” said the following about nike davis Okundaye “Nike represents the new breed of the African woman artist, many of whose realities are now international, though in essence they are perpetuating the living tradition of female artists and ‘cloth-queens’, controlling heady empires of fabric- wealthy powerful women. Nike’s concerns may differ and her range of techniques may have expanded from those of her ancestors, but they are still working with cloth.

The passion of her life, she declares, is to help emancipate Nigerian women through art. She had an extremely tough early life, and having broken free of an unhappy first marriage, is determined to inspire other women to expand their horizons. ‘The resurgence of interest in local cloth in Nigeria is helping women to become more financially independent’ she said. ‘if i hadn’t done all this work, i would never have got my independence. Most of the women who are not dependent on the whim of their husbands to provide have struggled and worked hard, mostly at weaving, and batik and adire in the countryside. The women are enjoying it too! Part of my aim in doing adire is to bring the whole thing back again. People appreciate it now, but before they used to say – ‘This is made in Nigeria – we don’t want it’

“Discussing the fact that the patronage of Oshogbo art has by and large shifted from expatriates in Nigeria to the indigenes  themselves, Nike said: ‘formerly Nigerians didn’t think much of our work, but nowadays the majority of our output, particularly the expensive pieces, are bought by Nigerians. When they travel abroad and see our work in big offices or posh homes, they will come and look for the artist. Then their houses, they want to decorate with Nigerian art. After the ban on imported goods in the ‘70s, since then Adire Eleko has become a big seller in Nigeria, which few bought before. People are returning to tradition and enjoying it. They are always looking for our batiks, which in turn encourages the work of our women, because it’s mostly women that produce cloth here’.”

“To each of the Oshogbo and ife artists i addressed the same question: ‘What does contemporary Nigerian art have to say to the world?’ i was particularly interested in how an internationally renowned and well-travelled artist like Nike would respond, and indeed she gave me an answer that betrayed her awareness of the global art market and its commercial possibilities. ‘Most of the people in the West who are interested in African art have been collecting antiquities and i think they should start investigating our modern art. One day this contemporary art will be recognized for its worth and will fetch high prices, like antiques.

To uninformed people, our art is new, but it is strong and good and will become old one day’. indeed early works by Twins Seven Seven change hands nowadays for thousands of dollars.”

Author: nmmin

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