Sustained by Passion
Behind the craggy façade of a mucky village, lies a beautiful sanctuary for Nigerian artistic history and contemporary way of life. The eroded thoroughfare that leads into the village of Piwoyi belies the precious jewel that is the Nike Center for Art and Culture, Abuja. Located along the express way to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Oshobo art meets the Abuja pottery heritage in a reverential blend of visual art and architecture.
Opened in 1992, on government allocated land, the Center is indeed an oasis for art lovers and African culture enthusiasts. A spacious gallery displaying contemporary Nigerian art in different media, all in a colorful array of beads, thread, pen and paint are sure to appeal to all, even the non-art aficionados. Works in Abstract and portraiture are well represented in this ingenious collection of the old, the new, the bold and the beautiful. Hand made designed cotton, popularly known as Adire, Tie and dye and of course Batik, is arranged neatly in another corner of the room, beside antique woven cloth, ‘ashoke’ and hand made bead necklaces.
No where else in Abuja can one find textile art along side painting, drummers and dancers. The Nike center for Arts and Culture Abuja, like its other centers in Lagos, Oshobgo and Ogidi, gives artist and craftsmen the opportunity to practice their trade and instruct others who are willing to learn and explore “a culture that has flourished in Western Nigeria for over a thousand years”.
According to the curator of the gallery, Mr. Sunday Oladele the center is receiving very little attention from the Abuja public, only a few visitors trickle in; patronage is mainly from the expatriate community. Even the level of artistic activities are streamlined due to lack of patronage, carving, metal work, weaving and embroidery are not done here at the Abuja center as in the others.
The inventively molded dye pits are the only indication of textile art still done at the center. Presently, the center is training about ten young individuals in a variety of artistic skills, another legacy from the proprietor, Chief (Mrs.) Nike Davis Okundaye. Mrs. Davis has devoted her life to promoting African art and artistes. Using her talent as an artist and up to date marketing skills, she has been able to enhance the personal and economic well-being of the center’s Artistes.
On reaching the center, you are sure to be enthralled by the energetic young performers who welcome visitors with a rhythmic vernacular, “Ekabo, Ekabo”. Not minding the scanty and unanticipated audience, they bring out drums, and perform continually, singing and dancing in sonorous Yoruba dialect, an authentic sound track for the walk through the gallery and its vicinity. The ethnic flavor of the experience pulls you into another world. The view of lush hills from outside the centers arty structural design is bound to leave you refreshed, revitalizing the mind. A visit to the Nike Center for Art and Culture, Abuja is a soothing balm to the tired senses of a busy work week.
Weather you are there to the buy art work on display or clothes with original African designs, you are sure to leave there with the resounding thought that the people behind this creation are purely motivated by their passion for the arts. The smiling faces of the dancers as they wave good bye, will cause you to contemplate on the level of commitment they have to something with so little financial gain. In a world like ours, where people don’t even sneeze unless money is going to come out of their nose, it’s so uplifting to see such enthusiasm for art, culture and tradition.