Nike Davies-Okundaye was born in 1951 and brought up in Ogidi, Kogi State Nigeria. She lost her mother and her grandmother at a young age but rose above her challenges to become a force to be reckoned with in Traditional Textile Design globally.
At the tender age of six, Nike lost her mother and had to go and live with her grandmother who introduced her to the Art of traditional weaving and dyeing. Her grandmother whom she says was the head of the community weavers taught her the benefit of hard work by painstakingly teaching her the fine art of the Adire design. Although she felt her grandmother was being hard on her then, she says the discipline and virtue instilled in her made her who she is today.
Her hope of having a formal education died with her mother who she says would have ensured she pursued her education to the University level had she been alive. However, she attributes her journey in life to destiny. Had her mother been alive, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn the fine art of traditional design that has taken her around the globe.
Nike’s romance with international exposure began in 1968 when she had an exhibition at the Goethe Institute in Lagos. Since then, she has grown to become a major name on the international art circuit. She is most outstanding in paintings and design of Adire, beadwork and batik.
Nike Monica Davies-Okundaye lectures in different institutions across the world including notable institutions like Harvard, Columbus, Edmonton, Ohio and in Los Angeles, among others, impacting the knowledge of her traditional Adire design in willing students. She is so skilled in her art that she lectures doctoral students even without a formal education.
“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.
She brings vivid imagination as well as a wealth of history and tradition into the production of Adire. Her works are celebrated in major capitals of the world, with her designs exhibited in countries like the USA, Belgium, Germany, Japan and Italy, among others.
Her Adire painting was accepted at The Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum, located in Washington DC, US. Some of her works can be found amongst the collection of prominent personalities around the world, including the White House.
Her Gallery, Nike Art Gallery located in Lagos, Nigeria is a sight to behold with beautiful works of art on display. She also has a workshop in Osogbo, western part of Nigeria where she teaches rural women how to make beautiful Adire designs and all sort of Arts works.
In May 2006, Nike 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 prostitutes (sex workers) in Italy. She has also received several accolades and international recognition for her works.
Two former presidents of the United States, Bill Clinton and George Bush were so enthralled by her works that they sought audience with her during their visit to Nigeria.