By Justina Uzo
Rhodes University, South Africa has conferred an honorary doctorate degree on Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye, a Nigerian batik and adire textile designer, and the owner of iconic Nike Art Gallery in Lagos with a ‘Doctor of Fine Art.’
Davies-Okundayo who has contributed immensely to the development of fine art was recognised alongside high-profile personalities from 54 African countries, recently. She dedicated the award to the rural women in Nigeria and her mentor, Susan Wenger, the Austrian lady who said was a source of inspiration to her as a teenager. Meanwhile, Wenger lived in Osogbo in south-west Nigeria and popularized her host community as an artist town.
“I dedicate this award to all the rural women in the whole country. I will treasure the award for the rest of my life. I will be going there (South Africa) periodically to teach art to the women. I also teach women in Osogbo in Adara Foundation; our own is to give the training. When I train you and I want you to train others. In Italy, Torino, alone I have trained over 10, 000 women in artwork, adire and painting. They now call me “Mama Adire and Mama Indigo for my tie and dye work.”
Mama Nike as she is also fondly referred to in art circle is the most recognisable personality in the local Nigerian art scene. She said she values the recognition which is coming shortly after she marked her 50 years of art practice. She says, “I value this Doctorate, This is coming from another country that doesn’t know me.”
Davies-Ekundayo thanked Rhodes University for the honour bestowed on her saying that she will do more in her effort to promote art and culture at home and abroad. She also thanked the Chaplin, Rhodes University Council, Dr. Chrissie Boughey, the man who she described as the ‘lover of art,’ for believing in her.
“They want me to be talking about art, watercolour and painting in schools. I talk about art both in Nigeria and abroad. Education is very important. I only attended primary school. I come from a poor family. I lost my mother at a very young age. I have thought over 10,000 students in Torino, Italy alone. I go there to teach the women.”
She urged the youth to embrace art and take bold steps to gain recognition in the art circle, saying that she didn’t capitalize on her deficiency “ Look at me today, I am recognized. I want good health and long life. I also want more and more people to see arts as work and means of making money.
You can start your own business in art and those things people are not in interested in, food, weaving and painting. Education is also very important. I only attained primary school. I was unable to express myself. And I was not shy, I will tell people I can’t even spell my name or sign signature. All that has changed.”