In Houston, Eko Art Gallery Evokes Nostalgic Feelings of Lagos

ARTBEAT |Thisday

As one of Houston’s most iconic silo buildings, The Silos at Sawyer houses 97 workspaces for over 100 artists. Here, in good company among others, a visitor would find Eko Art Gallery, which was officially opened on Saturday, March 6.

At the grand opening of the gallery, ambitiously aspires to build a cultural bridge between Africa and the West, were Chief Mrs Nike Davies-Okundaye, her husband Chief Reuben Okundaye, Dr Kessington Okundaye, artists like Ayoola Omovo, Oluseyi Soyege and Bimbo Adenugba, among other guests.

Curiously, an attendee at the opening, captivated by the colours of the artworks, described them as “so vibrant and fantastic”, and had good things to say about the techniques of the paintings.

The gallery’s CEO, Uloma Okundaye, reiterated her “love for art and a need to be part of a cross-cultural dialogue between African and the West,” which, in her opinion, has become necessary because of the COVID pandemic.

Of course, the gallery also aspires to help boost the image of the international Nigerian artist. This is besides contributing its modest quota towards introducing contemporary Nigerian and African art to not only Texans but also to the entire US.

The gallery’s ambience would inevitably evoke a nostalgic feeling in any visitor, who has either lived or visited Nigeria. Besides its being named after the traditional name of Lagos, the over 500 artworks it displays – which are works produced by Nigerian artists – feature the popular sights of the megacity, everyday life of Nigerians, as well as the country’s rich cultural heritage. Among these works are works by the iconic Bruce Onobrakpeya, Nike Davies-Okundaye, Bolaji Ogunwo and Tola Wewe.

Meanwhile, the gallery hopes to leverage its location at The Sawyer Yard to keep its vision for the visual arts alive. Its CEO Okundaye said this would be through continuous dialogue, art collaborations, exhibitions and art exchange. This is in addition to “using all available tools and social medium to promote the African (especially Nigerian) artist.”

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Before venturing into the establishment of this Houston-based gallery, Mrs Okundaye used to run a home-based gallery for several years, which she said, was opened to the public on appointment only. “My guests had a unique opportunity to view and experience the cultural diversity of Nigeria through the eyes of the Nigerian artist. I also come from an art-loving family, [with a predilection for] cultural diversity, in Edo State. I come from a family of well-known bronze-sculptors and wood-carvers, who have works displayed in the Oba of Benin’s palace. Of course, there is also my mother-in-law, who is one of the foremost female artists in Nigeria, possibly in the world. And that too was a great inspiration for me.”

With the formal launch of the gallery in a Houston downtown neighbourhood now behind her, she looks forward to hosting multiple exhibitions, which would include solos, in collaboration with The Sawyer Art Yard.

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