Thursday, 7 March 2019

CHIEF NIKE SEVEN SEVEN OKUNDAYE: QUEEN MOTHER OF WEST AFRICAN ART


By Margaretta wa Gacheru

(Posted 7 March 2019 revised 11 March)

She’s been crowned a Yoruba chief, a Queen Mother, an honorary doctor of philosophy and an award-winning batik artist with more international accolades than she can count. But the Nigerian Chief Nike Seven Seven Okundaye attributes all her success to the artistry and enterprise that she acquired from birth.
From her father she learned to do bead-work, a skill that now allows her to recycle plastic to make amazing beaded vests, jewelry and even crowns.  From her mother she learned to weave, embroider and applique, skills that gave her an entry into the Oshogbo community of artists after she’d run away from an arranged marriage she didn’t want. What also enabled Nike to make an impact in Oshogbo (and subsequently the rest of the world) was the technique her grandmother taught her for making Adire cloth from the indigo plant. It made her the fifth generation of women in her family with that precious talent. It was also a technique that Nike has turned around and taught on university campuses in the West and to literally thousands of young Nigerian women who have then helped her revive what was once a dying art.
In Kenya last week to watch the way five Nigerian artists’ paintings were received at Circle Art Gallery’s Art Auction East Africa, Nike was the reason the artworks of Bruce Onoprakpeya, Twins Seven Seven, Wole Lagunju, Muraina Oyelami and Jimoh Buraimoh were in the country. She had sent them from her gallery in Oshogbo to Alan Donovan of African Heritage House. They were for the Nigerian art exhibition that he’d planned to show at Nairobi National Museum as part of his 50th anniversary celebration of being in Africa, starting with his meeting Oshogbo artists like Nike and Muraina who had accompanied her from Oshogbo.
That same shipment minus the five Nigerian artworks that sold at the Art Auction last Monday night are now on display all over Hotel Intercontinental which is where Nike’s been staying, accompanied by Muraina Oyelami, the Oshogbo artist whose artwork was the first African contemporary painting that Mr Donovan had bought.
“Muraina’s painting is what inspired Alan to take African art seriously and [eventually] to set up African Heritage Pan African Gallery [with the late Joseph Murumbi],” says Nike who’s exhibited her own indigo Adire batiks at Alan’s gallery several times since.
Fifty years ago, Nike was newly married to Twins Seven Seven, having been a young woman who had found her way to Oshogbo and quickly became a dancer-actor with Duro Ladipo’s Traveling Theatre troupe. Twins was wildly imaginative, being a musician, painter and performer. But he had a hard time once Nike started making Adire cloth and creating batik textiles that international visitors to Oshogbo loved as much if not more than his music and art.
Twins was already a polygamous when she married him. But once she started meeting Western women who saw Twins’ abuse of his talented wife and couldn’t keep quiet about it, Nike finally took courage and left him. By the time she decided to go, she’d already begun teaching Adire textile construction to her co-wives the numbers of which had multiplied before her eyes.
Ever since she left, Nike has not only developing the dying art of Adire cloth making, and taught it in Oshogbo and abroad. She’s also given lectures and run workshops everywhere from Harvard University to schools in Ireland and Germany. She also established the Nike Art Gallery and Workshop where she doesn’t just teach textile making. She also talks about self-reliance, entrepreneurship and women’s setting up their own workshops where they too can create and sell their Adire cloth. And by now, she has established four gallery-workshops, in Oshogbo, Lagos, Abuja and in her hometown Ogidi where she’s been made a Chief. “Nike has the largest and most vibrant art gallery in Nigeria and possibly in the whole world,” says Muraina who exhibits his paintings primarily through her gallery.
The other and actually the main reason Nike came to Kenya was to attend Alan’s ‘African Twilight Gala’ and to celebrate his 50 plus years in Africa. It was also to bring Alan the news that he too had been officially been made a Chief. At the Gala she handed him his certificate confirming his new entitlement and gave him a beautiful agbada made especially for him out of the royal blue indigo Adire cloth.


















She’s been crowned a Yoruba chief, a Queen Mother, an honorary doctor of philosophy and an award-winning artist with more international accolades than she can count. But Chief Nike Seven Seven Okundaye attributes all her success to the artistry and enterprise that she acquired from birth.
From her father she learned to do bead-work, a skill that now allows her to recycle plastic to make amazing beaded vests, jewelry and even crowns.  From her mother she learned to weave, embroider and applique, skills that gave her an entry into the Oshogbo community of artists after she’d run away from an arranged marriage she didn’t want. 
What also enabled Nike to make an impact in Oshogbo (and subsequently around the world) was the technique her grandmother taught her for making Adire cloth from the indigo plant. It made her the fifth generation of women with that precious skill. It's also a technique that Nike’s turned around and taught to literally thousands of young Nigerian women who have helped her revive what was once a dying art.
In Kenya last week to watch the way five Nigerian artists’ paintings were received at Circle Art Gallery’s Art Auction East Africa, Nike was the reason the artworks of Bruce Onoprakpeya, Twins Seven Seven, Wole Lagunju, Muraina Oyelami and Jimoh Buraimoh were in the country. She had sent them to Alan Donovan for the Nigerian art exhibition that he’d first shown at Nairobi National Museum as part of his 50th anniversary celebration being in Africa, starting with his meeting Oshogbo artists like Nike and Muraina who had accompanied her from Oshogbo.
That same shipment minus the five Nigerian artworks that sold at the Art Auction last Monday night are now on display all over Hotel Intercontinental which is where Nike’s been staying, accompanied by Muraina, the Oshogbo artist whose artwork was the first that Alan Donovan bought.
“Muraina’s painting is what inspired Alan to take African art seriously and [eventually] to set up African Heritage Pan African Gallery [with the late Joseph Murumbi],” says Nike who’s known Alan since then.
At the time, she was newly married to Twins Seven Seven, having been a young woman who had found her way to Oshogbo and quickly became a dancer-actor with the renowned Duro Ladipo’s Traveling Theatre troupe. Twins was wildly imaginative, being a musician, painter and performer. But he had a hard time once Nike started making Adire cloth and creating batik textiles that international visitors to Oshogbo loved as much if not more than his music and art.
Twins was already a polygamous when she married him; but once she started meeting Western women who saw Twins’ abuse of his talented wife and couldn’t keep quiet about it, Nike got up the courage to finally leave him. By the time she decided to go, she’d already begun teaching textile design to her co-wives the numbers of which had multiplied before her eyes.
Ever since she left, Nike’s not only developing the dying art of Adire cloth making, and taught it to countless women and men both in Oshogbo and outside Africa where she’s often run workshops and given lectures on Yoruba, Nigerian and African cultures. 
She’s also established the Nike Art Gallery and Workshop where she doesn’t just teach textile making. She also talks about self-reliance, entrepreneurship and women’s setting up their own workshops where they learn and then go on to create and sell their Adire cloth. Nike now has four gallery-workshops, in Oshogbo, Lagos, Abuja and her hometown of Ogidi where she’s been made a Chief.
The other and actually the main reason Nike came to Kenya was to attend Alan’s ‘African Twilight Gala’ and to celebrate his 50 plus years in Africa. It was also to bring Alan the news that he too had been officially been made a Chief. At the Gala she handed him his certificate confirming his new entitlement and give him a beautiful agbada made especially for him out of her royal blue indigo Adire cloth.



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