As Nike descended from the staircase unto the ground floor of her spell-binding art gallery, she beamed with smiles and began to dance and sing, "A tí nretí rè o, káàbò sé dáadáa lo dé…"
She was garbed in a beautiful deep blue Àdìre Ìró and Bùbá (shirt and robe of batik textile) and walked with her barefoot. Her low-cut hair, necklace of big orange beads and facial makeup depicted the artistic look of the ancient Yoruba damsel.
Nike Davies Okundaye, the founder of the popular ‘Nike Art’, has carved a niche for herself through her colourful Àdìre textiles and paintings. She grew up in the village of Ogidi in Western Nigeria, an enclave well known for traditional weaving and dying practices. This sparked in her the passion for textile arts and pushed her to spearhead a cultural revival to rescue the fading culture of tie and dye textile making in Nigeria. For the past 20yrs, she worked hard to build art centres where young Nigerians learn traditional arts and crafts. She has also given workshops on traditional Nigerian textiles to audiences in the US and Europe.
Nike art gallery sits within a towering white-clad multi-story building at No. 2, Elegushi Road, 3rd Round About, Lekki-Epe Expressway, Ikate Bus Stop, Lekki Phase-1, Lekki, Lagos.
Conspicuously written on its roof and noticeable from at least 1.5 miles away is "NIKE ART GALLERY", ostentatiously informing every passer-by along the Lekki-Epe expressway of the presence of the gallery. The location and height of the building also makes it a desired destination for tourists in Lagos as the white beach sands of the Lekki peninsula on which it rests stretch east-west through tens of kilometres, sandwiched between the Lagos lagoon on its northern flank and the Atlantic Ocean to its south. Standing on the topmost floor of the gallery gives one a breath-taking sight of both water bodies flanking the peninsula.
As our tour bus pulled up in front of the gallery, the fence and walls of the building welcomed us with magnificent artistic reliefs and sculptures of various media. Two beautifully sculptured and painted Dánfó buses, hung on the fence amidst a set of free-standing sculptured wood pillars spoke a million words, preparing us for the glorious world of art and culture sheltered within the gallery.
At one corner in the compound, a set of batik textiles spread on a line danced to the rhythm of the passing sea breeze, played by the strings of the raging Atlantic ocean. Our heart beats raced as we approached the heavy doors of the main building; it stood bold and inviting. A man at the door flung open the heavy doors and a myriad of colours blanketed our faces as the building swallowed us into its beautiful belly.
Like ceramic tiles on a bathroom wall, oil and watercolour paintings overwhelmed the multi-story gallery from its ceilings to its floors.
Most of the works revealed sights and scenes within the city of Lagos, as well as the cultural values of the Yoruba people of western Nigeria. Most of the works on display were done by Nike herself and Tola Wewe, while works by other notable Nigerian artists were also exhibited.
Nike took us from one part of the gallery to another telling the sweet story behind each of the art works. One of the visitors from London expressed her amazement at the detailed representations of African human faces and figures in the paintings. She noted that it is uncommon to find African human figures or faces beautifully represented in paintings exhibited in Europe. The visitors eagerly asked questions from Nike, who also answered them with great excitement.
By the time we were through exploring the ground floor of the gallery, great time had passed and we had to quickly move up to the upper floors. The first floor of the gallery featured mind-blowing furniture works, which include some beautifully sculptured wooden beds and upholstery chairs.
As we explored the gallery, we pulled out our smart phones and tablets, connected to the free Wi-fi internet network at the gallery and tweeted away photos of the gallery, showing-off to the world the wonders of the Nike Art Gallery- the Lagos most of them don’t see when they come visiting. The twitter ash tag used was #smwlagostour.
To contact Nike Art Gallery, visit www.nikeart.com.
- Two beautifully sculptured and painted Dánfó buses, hung on the fence amidst a set of free-standing sculptured wood pillars…
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