Nike Davies-Okundaye

Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye (born 1951), also known as Nike Okundaye, Nike Twins Seven Seven and Nike Olaniyi, is a Nigerian batik and Adire textile designer.

Nike Okundaye
Chief Nike Davies Okundaye.jpg
Chief Nike Okundaye, June 2019
Born(1951-05-23)23 May 1951
Known forTextile artist
Spouse(s)Twins Seven Seven (divorced)

Early lifeEdit

Nike Okundaye was born in 1951 in Ogidi, Kogi State, in North-Central Nigeria,[1] and was brought up amidst the traditional weaving and dyeing as practised in her home town. Her parents and great grandmother were musicians and craftspeople, who specialised in the areas of cloth weaving, adire making, indigo dyeing and leather.[2] She spent part of her early life in Osogbo, Western Nigeria, modern-day Osun State. Osogbo is also recognised as a major centre for art and culture in Nigeria. Growing up in Osogbo, young Nike was exposed to indigo dyeing and Adire production which dominated her informal training.[3]


Over the past twenty years, she has given workshops on traditional Nigerian textiles to audiences in the United States and Europe. She had her first solo exhibition at the Goethe Institute, Lagos in 1968.[2] She is the founder and director of four art centers that offer free training to over 150 young artists in visual, musical and performing arts, comprising more than 7,000 artworks.[2]

Finding that the traditional methods of weaving and dyeing that had been her original inspiration were fading in Nigeria, Davies-Okundaye set about launching a revival of this aspect of Nigerian culture, building art centres offering free courses for young Nigerians to learn traditional arts and crafts. As art historian John Peffer states, “One thing shared by many of the latest generation of African artists in the diaspora - those who have been successful on the art circuit - is that their work critiques the very burden of representation that is also the condition of their visibility.”[4] In her eyes the traditional art of Adire Eleko is only possible because of a specific Nigerian heritage of passing knowledge from one generation to the next. In a video interview published by Nubia Africa, Okundaye states that "school can only teach what they [art students] already know."[5] According to a CNBC Africa interview, she trained more than 3000 young Nigerians for free and she continues to help by funding many poor to establish their small businesses and art workshops in different parts of Nigeria.

Adire textile staining.
Adire Eleko example.

Davies-Okundaye strives to improve lives of disadvantaged women in Nigeria through art. She teaches the unique techniques of indigo cloth-dyeing (Adire) to rural women at her workshop in south-west Nigeria. She hopes to revive the centuries-old tradition and the lives of these women.[6] Adire - that which is tied and dyed - is native to the Southwest region of Nigeria. The freehand dyeing is sometimes known as Adire Eleko. "Adire" refers to indigo dye, and 'Eleko' refers to the boiled cassava, lime, and alum resist technique used to create patterns.[7] There is a strong tendency to keep dyeing recipes and methods secret from inquisitive outsiders.[8] Davies-Okundaye chooses to continuously reference Adire patterns in her artwork because Adire is a women's art, and was taught to her by her mother. Adire pattern motifs were traditionally handed down from mother to daughter, and the designs themselves virtually have not changed in form over time.[9]

Davies-Okundaye was featured on CNN International's "African Voices" which tells about Africa's most engaging personalities, exploring their lives and passions.[10] Moreover, Nike's painting is permanently featured at The Smithsonian Museum as of 2012, and her work is also part of the collection of the Gallery of African Art and The British Library, in London and at Johfrim Art and Design Studio.[11] She holds the chieftaincy titles of the Yeye Oba of Ogidi-Ijumu and the Yeye Tasase of Oshogbo.

Nike Okundaye was included in the 2019 show I Am… Contemporary Women Artists of Africa at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington, D C.[12]

Personal lifeEdit

She was once married to fellow Nigerian artist Twins Seven Seven, but that marriage ended in divorce. Her son Olabayo Olaniyi, College of Santa Fe graduate, is also an artist. Davies-Okundaye has more than 150 students in Europe and America. She is also a philanthropist.

Published sourcesEdit

A book about Nike was written by Kim Marie Vaz, The Woman with the Artistic Brush: A Life History of Yoruba Batik Artist Nike Okundaye.[13]


In 2019 Rhodes University in Grahamstown announced it would award Davies-Okundaye an honorary doctorate in fine arts (DFA, hc).[14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Picton, John (2008). "Nike Okundaye". In Gumpert, Lynn (ed.). The poetics of cloth : African textiles, recent art. New York: Grey Art Gallery, New York University. p. 68. ISBN 9780615220833.
  2. ^ a b c "Nike Davies-Okundaye & Tola Wewe". Gallery of African Art. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  3. ^ "Nike Davies-Okundaye". Gallery of African Art. n.d. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  4. ^ Peffer, John (2003). "The Diaspora as Object," in Art of the Contemporary African Diaspora. New York, NY: Museum for African Art. p. 32.
  5. ^ INDLU with Nike “Davies” Okundaye on YouTube
  6. ^ Ndeche, Chidirim (12 August 2017). "Nike Davies-Okundaye: Expressing Nigeria Through Art". TheGuardian. Lagos, Nigeria. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  7. ^ Carr, Ritka; Davies-Okundaye, Nike (2001). Beyond Indigo: Adire Eleko Squares, Patters & Meanings. Lagos, Nigeria: Sabo-Yaba.
  8. ^ Vaz, Kim Marie (1995). The Women with the Artistic Brush. M. E. Sharpe. p. 84.
  9. ^ Gillow, John (2001). Printed and Dyed Textiles from Africa. Seattle: University of Washington Press. pp. 16–17.
  10. ^ Purefoy, Christian (12 April 2011). "Nigeria's 'Mama Nike' empowers women through art". CNN. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  11. ^ "UK building relationship with Africa through art". Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  12. ^ "Opening events I Am . . . Contemporary Women Artists of Africa". Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  13. ^ Bourgatti, Jean M.; Vaz, Kim Marie (1997). "The Woman with the Artistic Brush". International Journal of African Historical Studies. 30 (1): 216–218. doi:10.2307/221593. JSTOR 221593. Reviews the book The Woman with the Artistic Brush: A Life History of Yoruba Batik Artist Nike Okundaye, by Kim Marie Vaz.
  14. ^ "Rhodes University honours five of Africa's best". 7 March 2019. Retrieved 7 March 2019.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit