“People come here from all over the world to learn,” says Reuben Okundaye while addressing journalists at the Likki-based Nike Art Gallery. “If we were based in the developed world, corporate organizations and developmental institutions will be queuing to sponsor our activities, and not we going after them.”
Mr Okundaye made these comments in the week (in May) when his wife Nike, the accomplished artist and cultural ambassador, clocked 61. “Nike, as you know, is a tireless woman, highly driven by humility and sincerity of purpose,” he adds, seated in a vast exhibition space on the first floor of the multi-story gallery.
Two days earlier, on May 18, during the International World Museum Day celebrations at the Lagos National Museum, the Honourable Minister for Culture, Tourism and National Orientation Chief Edem Duke, had announced his appointment of Mrs Okundaye as a Special Adviser.
It was an honour long overdue, though Mrs Okundaye is renowned abroad for her expertise in Adire print making, a constant fascination for western scholars. Mr Okundaye wondered why, with the continuous interest of the world in Nigeria’s artistic exports, government has turned ‘the blind eye’ to indigenous art all these years, instead investing all its energies to the exploitation of crude oil.
“There are too many tourist interests in this country; I think we are highly blessed to have all these resources,” he says, highlighting all the various artistic engagements of the Nike Art Gallery over the years. “I am quite aware that some countries solely depend on arts and culture to derive revenue for their annual budgets. For a country to develop, it needs its culture to be the driving force. What we’re doing is to bring to the fore the importance of our artistic heritage.”
For years, Nike Art Gallery has actively empowered the rural womenfolk (and youths) in Kogi State, Osun State and the federal capital, facilitating skills acquisition training in tie-and-die trade. Its impressive operational base in the Lekki axis of Lagos is a tourist attraction in itself, stocked from its ground floor up with tasteful local art.
Nike Art Gallery (White House with Red Roof)
3rd Roundabout (By Ikate bus stop)