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Influential Nigerian Artists and Crafters of the 21st Century

Influential Nigerian Artists and Crafters of the 21st Century

The Nigerian art scene has experienced an astonishing transformation in the 21st century, marked by a myriad of creativity, innovation, and global recognition. From traditional art forms deeply rooted in Nigeria’s gigantic cultural heritage to contemporary expressions that push boundaries and challenge conventions, Nigerian artists and crafters have spearheaded shaping the country’s cultural landscape. In this blog post, we will delve into the lives and works of some of the most influential Nigerian artists and crafters of the 21st century, celebrating their contributions to the art world through their resilience and their enduring legacy.


The purpose of this blog post is to shine a spotlight on the remarkable talent and creativity within Nigeria’s artistic domain, highlighting the diverse range of influential Nigerian artists and crafters of the 21st Century who have made outstanding contributions to the country’s cultural and artistic heritage. By exploring their works and feats, we aim to provide readers with a deeper understanding of the Nigerian art scene and its evolution in the 21st century. Additionally, this post seeks to inspire aspiring artists and crafters by presenting the success stories of their predecessors and the possibilities that the world of art avails them.


One of the most influential Nigerian artists of the 21st century is Nike Davies-Okundaye, a renowned textile artist whose vibrant works celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Nigeria. Born in 1951 in Ogidi, Kogi State, in North-Central Nigeria, she was exposed to indigenous Yoruba art and culture from a young age, which had a major influence on her artistic journey. Despite the challenges faced in her early life, including limited access to formal education, Davies-Okundaye found her passion for art and embarked on a remarkable career that would catapult her to international acclaim.

Nike Davies
                                                     Nike Davies-Okundaye

Davies-Okundaye’s artistic style is characterized by bold colours, complex patterns, and a combination of traditional Yoruba motifs with trendy techniques. She is mostly known for her mastery of adire (indigo-dyed cloth) and batik. Through her artistic prowess, Davies-Okundaye seeks to preserve and promote Nigeria’s cultural heritage while also addressing contemporary issues. Notable among Davies-Okundaye’s most iconic works include her ‘Adire Eleko’ textiles, which come in indigo colour and complex symbolic imagery. The ‘Adire Eleko’ textiles are unique and known for their soft blue or white designs, which usually contrast an indigo blue background. According to an interview with CNBC Africa, Nike trained over 3,000 Nigerian youths for free, and her philanthropic gesture is also evident in the way she funds small art business owners to support their endeavours in different parts of Nigeria.

Adire Image
    Image of Adire Eleko Designed With King and Queen Motif. SOURCE:

Despite being faced with challenges such as limited access to resources and institutional support, Davies-Okundaye’s resilience enabled her to thrive as an artist, educator, and cultural ambassador. In addition to her artistic achievements, she is also the founder of the Nike Art Gallery and the Nike Art Foundation, which provide training and support to aspiring artists and foster cultural exchange and dialogue.


Davies-Okundaye’s impact on the Nigerian art scene and the global art world cannot be overemphasized. Through her artistry, advocacy, and mentorship, she has inspired countless artists and crafters to embrace their cultural heritage, explore their creativity, and make meaningful contributions to society. Her legacy is a testament to the power of art to transcend boundaries, unite communities, impact lives positively, and enrich them.


Another artist at the forefront of Nigeria’s contemporary art scene is Ndidi Dike. Birthed in London on June 16, 1960, Dike has emerged as a prominent figure in the Nigerian art world, known for her great sculpting skills, thought-provoking installations and mixed-media works. Graduating from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, with a diploma in music education (voice), with a B. A in Fine and Applied Arts, Dike’s early career was marked by a deep exploration of Nigerian cultural heritage and socio-political themes.

Ndidi Dike
                                Ndidi Dike

Dike’s artistic style is characterized by her innovative use of found objects, textiles, and other materials sourced from urban environments. Via her creative works, she addresses issues of identity, gender, and globalization, offering viewers a unique perspective on contemporary Nigerian society. Her works often incorporate elements of performance and audience participation, creating immersive experiences that challenge conventional notions of art.


She has featured in different exhibitions in Nigeria, Africa and internationally. Some of the exhibitions she partook in include; Tapestry of Life: New Beginnings at the National Museum (2008), Waka-into-Bondage: The Last ¾ Mile for CCA (2008), Unknown Pleasures and Competing Tendencies; National Museum Onikan, Lagos (2012), Biennale Jogja XIII Hacking Conflict Indonesia meets Nigeria (2015); State Of The Nation, new works and installations, National Museum Onikan, Lagos (2016); Constellations: Floating Space, Motion and Remembrance, Iwalewahaus Bayreuth, Germany (2017); In The Guise of Resource Control, VillaVasslieff, Paris (2017); Ex-Africa, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (2017–2018); Belo Horizonte Brasil: Vanishing Voices 11th Bienal do Mercosul, Porto Alegre Brazil (2018); Dakart Biennale (2018); Feedback: Art, Africa and the 1980s, Iwalewahaus (2018); Princesses Of The City, Palais de Tokyo (2019); Lagos Biennial at Independence House, Lagos (2019),  and many more, earning Dike international recognition for her immense contributions to modern art. The ‘Waka-into-Bondage: The Last ¾ Mile for CCA (2008), celebrated the deletion of slave trading. She published her first artist monograph titled ‘Discomfort Zones’ in 2022. Dike is also a member of The Guild of Fine Arts, Nigeria (GFAN) as well as the Society of Nigerian Artists. (SNA). She is also a cultural activist.

ndidi taking stock
  Taking Stock (Art Twenty-One Lagos 2021), via

As Ndidi Dike continues to push the boundaries of artistic expression, her impact on the Nigerian art scene remains profound. Through her thought-provoking works, she invites viewers to engage with complex socio-cultural issues, fostering dialogue and reflection in the process.


Notable among Nigerian artists and crafters of the 21st century is Peju Alatise, known for her breathtaking sculptures, paintings, and installations that explore themes of womanhood, identity, and societal norms. Born in 1975 in Lagos, Nigeria, Alatise’s artistic journey commenced at a tender age, and she received formal architectural training at the Ladoke Akintola University, Oyo State, Nigeria.

Peju Alatise
           Peju Alatise, via

Her sculptures, in particular, are widely known for their complex detailing and emotion-invoking expressions, capturing the focal point of the human experience. One of Alatise’s most notable works is “Flying Girls,” a series of sculptures portraying young girls adorned with wings, symbolizing freedom and the pursuit of dreams. Inspired by the obstacles faced by young girls in Nigerian society, the “Flying Girls” series serves as a powerful commentary on gender inequality and the resilience of the human spirit. Besides her sculptural works, Alatise is also a talented painter, using eye-catching colours and bold brushstrokes to pass powerful messages about social justice and empowerment. Her paintings often include elements of strong female figures and celebrate the beauty of women in Nigerian culture.


Throughout her career, Alatise has received different awards and accolades for her contributions to the art world, including being picked to be Nigeria’s representative at the prestigious Venice Biennale in 2017 and the 2017 FNB Art Prize. Her projects have been showcased in galleries and museums around the world, thereby making her a force to reckon with within the local and global artistic space.

Flying girls
     Flying Girls by Peju Alatise, via Photo by Joe Kennedy

Despite her success, Alatise remains committed to using her art as an avenue for social change, advocating for the rights of women and marginalized communities in Nigeria and beyond. Through her powerful and thought-provoking creative creations, she strives to challenge stereotypes and inspire audiences to confront pressing issues facing society.


Peju Alatise’s unique approach to art and her unflinching commitment to social justice have positioned her as one of the most influential and impactful artists of the 21st century. Her ability to synthesize traditional Nigerian aesthetics with contemporary subject matters has earned her a place on the global stage, where her voice resonates loudly and powerfully.


Summarily, the Nigerian art scene of the 21st century has been greatly influenced by the outstanding contributions and brilliance of the aforementioned creatives. Each artist has graced the industry with a special perspective and style, enriching the Nigerian culture and inspiring generations to come.


Nike Davies-Okundaye’s commitment to preserving traditional textile techniques and empowering local artisans connotes the vitality of cultural heritage and community participation in nurturing Nigeria’s artistic traditions. Ndidi Dike’s innovative approach to mixed-media art challenges conventional boundaries, sparking critical dialogue and reflection on contemporary Nigerian issues. Peju Alatise’s evocative sculptures and installations provoke thought and introspection, addressing themes of identity, femininity, and social justice in Nigerian society.


As we celebrate the contributions of these influential Nigerian artists and crafters of the 21st Century, let us continue to support and champion Nigerian art and creativity, recognizing its power to inspire, educate, and transform lives. Together, we can ensure that the legacy of Nigerian artistry thrives for generations to come.

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