The announcement of Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye on Wednesday as the Busan 2030 World Expo goodwill ambassador means she now shares the honour with the renowned K-pop supergroup BTS. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke reports
Chief Dr Nike Davies-Okundaye looked regal in her conical pink beaded crown, finely textured red shawl, and blue-themed flowing tie-dye boubou as she stood before her guests on that sun-drenched Wednesday, August 7, afternoon. The South Korean ambassador, Kim Young-Chae, stood behind her and first presented her with a certificate of appreciation before presenting her with a plaque as the goodwill ambassador for the much-anticipated 2030 Busan Expo.
If there was a feeling of déjà vu about this event, which was held at her gallery along the Lekki expressway in Lagos, it was because the vivacious septuagenarian matriarch of the arts scene has maintained a persistent presence in the public consciousness. And, indeed, this wouldn’t be the first time in recent memory that she would find herself in the spotlight.
Speaking of these spotlight moments, one of the most recent of them was a recent collaboration with the South Korean Embassy on March 8. This was when her gallery—which, besides Lagos, has outposts in Abuja, Osogbo, and her hometown Ogidi—co-hosted the Nigerian Female Art Exhibition with the embassy in Abuja in commemoration of International Women’s Day.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to miss the subtext of this appointment, which eloquently attests to the great admiration and respect the South Korean ambassador has for Chief Davies-Okundaye. This is further buttressed by the fact that he, accompanied by his wife, Kim Hyun-Joo, and a coterie of his embassy staff flew into Lagos from Abuja just for this event.
Of course, there was also the primary factor that, according to the embassy’s press release, the appointment stands the Kogi State native in good stead “to play a vital role in promoting the Republic of Korea and Busan in Lagos, Nigeria, and West Africa until the voting day for the 2030 World Expo site selection scheduled for November 2023.”
Talking about the 2030 World Expo, it is a proposed international fair, for which Russia, South Korea, Italy, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia have submitted bids. With Russia withdrawing its bid in May, the contest has now been narrowed down to four countries, among which South Korea is a top contender.
The East Asian country proposed to host the event in Busan, its second-largest city, with the theme “Transforming Our World, Navigating Toward a Better Future,” in a letter of candidacy sent to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in June 2021. Indeed, its hopes of being elected as the host country for this prestigious event pivots on the premise that it has spectacularly transformed itself from a developing economy to a developed one within the last 60 years, as a promotional video shown to the audience at the beginning of the event corroborates. Even though Korea is a divided nation, it nonetheless actively participates in international initiatives to promote peace and harmony and believes that it has a lot to teach the rest of the world.
“As one of the ten largest economies in the world, Korea is a global Information and Communications Technology (ICT) powerhouse,” the embassy’s press statement adds. “Korea is leading the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution with technologies in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and Smart Mobility. Korea is also a cultural powerhouse. K-culture, encompassing drama, movies, music, and food, has taken the world by storm, enabling Korea to become a global trendsetter in soft power.”
An eventual successful bid would see the Expo taking place between May 1 and October 31, 2030, at the North Port district of Busan, which is Korea’s second-largest city and the largest port city with top-notch infrastructure. “The city has been a hub of transportation and logistics and a gateway at the intersection of the Eurasian continent and the Pacific Ocean,” the press statement further explained. “Busan represents the past, present, and future of Korea. It has played a crucial role in Korea’s growth, from one of the poorest countries receiving economic aid to a donor country. During the Korean War, the city was home to a million refugees. The Busan Spirit embodies the World EXPO values of education, innovation, and cooperation.”
Back to Chief Davies-Okundaye’s last Wednesday’s investiture, Ambassador Kim Young-Chae is confident that with her charisma she would deepen and widen the support base for the proposed Busan Expo among her gallery’s habitués and her network of patrons and friends. For there were, among the audience, renowned members of the local art community, in addition to the distinguished presence of the Korean delegation, which included the embassy’s economic officer, Choi Jung Won, the Director of the Korean Cultural Centre, Nigeria, Kim Chang-Ki, the director of KOTRA (Korea Trade Promotion Corporation), Lee Seungwoo, the Samsung Heavy Industry-Nigeria’s managing director, Kim Jong-Seok, the managing director of SHIN Kim Gang, the director of LG Electronics Nigeria, Song Joon Kyu, the Daewoo Auto-land CEO Cho Hong Sun, and the Asiana Mart CEO, Chang Jung Sik.
Chief Davies-husband, Okundaye’s Chief Rueben Osaruyi Okundaye, the general manager of The George Hotel, Judd Lehmann, the Stony Brook University, New York, US-based Professor Oyeronke Oyewunmi, and Sterling Bank’s Head of Tourism, Culture, and Arts, Mrs Abiola Adelana were all present to celebrate this moment in the spotlight with her.
There were also Media Entrepreneur Azuka Ogujiuba, Solution 17 Green’s CEO/Project Director Ms Fluke Michael, the International Federation of Interior Designers Association of Nigeria’s 21st president Titi Ogufere, University of Bristol’s Dr Ryan Connor, University of Lagos’s Dr Bolaji Ogunwo, New York University, Abu Dhabi-based Professor Awam Amkpa, the Culture Advocate Caucus’s executive programme director Jahman Anikulapo, Refund Business Technologies Limited’s managing director Dr Kensington Okundaye and the renowned artist, Junkman of Afrika.
With her last Wednesday’s announcement as the World Expo 2030 Busan, Korea goodwill ambassador, Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye now shares the honour with BTS, the K-pop supergroup, which was earlier officially announced as ambassadors by the Bid Committee during a ceremony at entertainment company HYBE’s headquarters in the South Korean capital city, Seoul on Tuesday, July 19.