Mrs. Nike Okundaye, popularly known as “Mama Nike” of Nike Art Gallery, said she changed the narratives of 5,000 professional sex workers in Nigeria through art training in Italy.
Okundaye made the disclosure on Thursday at the “Destination Marketing Strategy in Cultural Tourism” organized by the National Arts and Culture Council in Abuja.
He said he had a passion for training the trainer program because it aimed to use artwork to reduce poverty, unemployment and crime in society.
“My love is training and the people I have trained have to train other people. I was in Italy training Nigerian prostitutes, 5,000 of them. We used 3,000 artworks to transform them into artists.
“These paintings you are seeing here are from 1995.
“Many of these prostitutes are now engaged and are no longer prostitutes.
“I was born into art, I am the fifth generation artist in my family and the way children were educated in those days, you teach your children what you do.
“When I finished the First Sixth and I had no money for secondary school, weaving “adire” and the painting I learned from my father and mother are what I am doing today.
“I started from poverty, but from poverty I was able to become an icon in society,” he said.
Okundaye asked the youth to practice what they learned from their parents and innovate creatively.
“My message to the youth is that your parents used akara money to train you, you have to upgrade that akara to hamburger.
“Renew and follow your heart and do the things you learned from your parents. Do them and create in a good way and always think positive,” he said.
Okundaye said since he opened the Nike Art Gallery in Abuja, youths have been coming to train.
“I have had a training center here since 1996. I have over 2,000 works of art in this building.
“I have many artists that I have trained. When I trained them, they trained others and they bring their works and if we sell them, they give us 10 percent of the total cost,” he said.
In his remarks, the CEO of NCAC, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, said he supported the Nike Art Gallery to be a destination market for Nigeria.
Runsewe described the arts and culture sector as public-private.
He said if Nike Art Gallery was given the necessary support it would go a long way in reducing unemployment and crime in the country.
“In most cases, we make mistakes in Africa by not recognizing ours, not believing in ours and not developing ours.
“If the private sector or an individual can put up this kind of gallery, what we need as a government is to support it.
“This can generate a lot of resources for the country. If you travel to other parts of the world, they have galleries that you have to pay to visit.
“One of the fundamental aspects of tourism is the experience. Some people have never seen this amount of paintings and fabric designs,” he said.
He recalled that three weeks ago, when an ambassador saw Fela’s painting, he felt like taking off his dress.
“Because this is one of Fela’s big fans. He continued to take pictures with Fela’s artwork.
“These pictures you see are therapy in themselves. When some people are sick or down, this is what they use.
“We must use what we have now to develop and promote our country. There are many works of art here that can speak for Nigeria.
“For me, we will support the Nike Arts Gallery and make it a destination to market the country,” he said.