I didn’t struggle for long before deciding I was going to write on ‘Why Nigerians need to forget about The Artifacts The British Stole From Them’. But in order for me to produce a piece that holds water, it’s expedient that I made as many researches as my mind could gather, because the content team at Bella Naija wouldn’t accept anything below par. I learned this the bitter way after they turned down my first piece.
This was what led me to the very popular Nike Art Gallery.
It should Have Been The National Museum
Since museums are easily the best places to find and get to know the story behind artifacts, I set out with Precious (my operations manager) to the popular National Museum in Onikan, Lagos. It was a sunny Saturday. The weather was so hot that every chicken could lay boiled eggs. It also coincided with the day Nigeria’s President was visiting Lagos for his campaign rally, so major roads were closed and security details were scattered everywhere like Lagos was a war-thorn state, even in front of religious houses. On getting to the Museum, it was quieter than a Buddhist Monastery.
“Good morning sir.” we both chorused as the gateman who looked somewhat angry and nonchalant answered without looking into our faces. “Aren’t we well dressed?” I thought within me as my eyes caught Precious’. But there wasn’t too much time for self-examination. “Museum people never come o. And I no know when them go reach here because na until them come before una fit enter.” This was many minutes after 11 O’clock and this man was saying we had to wait till the staff resume.
So we sat by a feeble bench just outside the gates of the Museum to wait for another 20 minutes which looked more like 20 hours. I felt the urge to return home, but Precious wouldn’t allow our time and money to go down the drain, so she suggested I thought about somewhere else that could make up for the Museum.
After jokingly suggesting many irrelevant places to her, I finally mentioned Nike Art Gallery, and she was cool with it, but neither of us knew how to get there. So I called Goke, a childhood friend who had recently been there.
Getting To Nike Art Gallery
Goke advised that the easiest route was to find our way to Obalende where we could join a bus to Ajah and alight at Ikate bus stop. We of course followed Abbey’s description and found ourselves in front of Nike art gallery an hour later. We needed no one to tell us we were in the right place as we stared at the magnificent edifice.
Close your eyes and imagine what a giant 3 storey building covered with white paint in and out then adorned with myriads of beautiful art pieces ranging from metal and wooden works to canvas paintings, down to fabrics.
Now open your eyes.
Whatever you’ve imagined wasn’t half as beautiful as what the Nike Art Gallery actually looks like because the description I’ve just given is incapable of doing the right justice to this terrific edifice. At first I thought a building had been stolen from Santorini, to Ikate.
We Paid Nothing!
To my disbelieve, it costs N0.00 to gain access to the Nike Art Gallery. All you need is the strength to push the heavy iron doors which conceals well over 25,000 art pieces.
You are given unlimited time to explore the gallery without any disturbance whatsoever. Now that’s marvelous.
Navigating the Nike Art Gallery
We were welcomed by a young lady who seemed really happy with her job as a guide. She briefly told us about the gallery and we took the following away:
– Entry is always free
– Every piece of artwork displayed is for sale at varying prices
– The Gallery is open every day of the week (including weekends) between 10 am-6 pm
-The gallery boasts of 25,000+ artworks, making it the biggest in West Africa.
-Taking direct pictures of the artworks isn’t permitted unless you appear in the picture.
“Have fun”, she concluded while we grinned like first time lovers as we watched her disappeared farther into the gallery.
My eyes caught Precious’ and all I saw in her eyes was confusion, just like mine. We didn’t know where or how to start exploring the 3 storey gallery loaded with ravishing art pieces, so we unanimously decided on starting with the first floor.
On getting back to the ground floor, we were stunned as we bumped into Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye. Precious froze while I gasped for air in awe of her elegance. Her mushy smile gave her away as an easygoing, fulfilled being living the life she’s always dreamed of. I’d be mad at myself all year if we’d left without taking pictures with her. Precious seems to share the same stance, so we asked her for a picture and she obliged like she’s been waiting for us to ask.
Born in 1951 in Ogidi, Davies-Okundaye holds the chieftaincy titles of the Yeye Oba of Ogidi-Ijumu and the Yeye Tayese of Oshogbo. Her work is also part of the collection of The Gallery of African Art and The British Library, in London. Chief Nike has more than 150 students in Europe and America.
Taking the pictures was like the only icing we needed on our cake as we strolled out into the courtyard to take a few more pictures before hopping on the next bus destined for Obalende. This was after we’d bought a not-too-nice fried yam with chicken.
- Take more than one cloth along because it wouldn’t be nice taking as many as 100 different pictures wearing just one outfit.
- Go with at least another person because you need someone to take your pictures and as well keep your company.
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