I always wanted to be an actress
Veteran actress, Zainab Bukky Ajayi born on February 2, 1934, loves what she does for a living with passion. Born a Christian, she converted to Islam in the early eighties and chose the name Zainab. Her love for the theatre started as a young girl when her father used to take her to the cinemas.
“I used to tell him that one day I am going to be like one of those actresses, but unfortunately he never lived to see me become an actress, it’s a pity but that’s God’s will. When I was a very young girl, my interest was so much that I used to do a cardboard sort of cinema for children, and I used to charge them half a penny to come and watch.
“Later, the opportunity came for her to study in England. She was abroad for six years, as a Federal government scholar at Stanislavsky Institute of Drama, London. She left England and came back to Nigeria after her education in 1965 and started out working in Nigeria Television as a presentation assistant in 1966. “Then we had an extremely good leader in Dr. Christopher Kolade,who was always monitoring what we do”.
“Back then, we had this Thursday meeting, which all announcers all over the states must attend”. Then it was not a question of being glamorous, because unknowingly, you will be recorded off transmission the night before the meeting, the tape will now be played back on that day whilst we are having the meeting, and the best part is that, a younger person who is just coming in will be asked to criticize you, so that kept all of us on our toes.”
Afterwards, she became a presenter and then a news reader. She presented a couple of children’s programmes and ‘Nigerian’s Sketches’, a programme which was all about Nigerian culture, and Diran Ajijedidun of blessed memory was her producer. She was later transferred to Port Harcourt and later back to Lagos, and it was at that time she started her acting career.
She started with the ‘Village Headmaster’ in the 70’s, and she later got a role in Amaka Igwe’s ‘Checkmate’. She has featured in so many home videos that she has lost count. She stared in movies like Mother of George, Indecent Girl, Diamond Ring, Witches, Thunderbolt (magun), Oduduwa, Final Whistle, Temini tie ko, Indecent girls, Keep my will, fine things and several others.
Shooting of international film Critical Assignment in South Africa, is one of the events of her life that she will never forget.”It gave me an opportunity to see how it is done elsewhere, other than Nigeria, where a movie is shot in five days.
I went round the country. I saw how a star is treated. For once in my life, I was a star, I was treated as a star, and I believe I am a star. I had my own caravan with my name on it, my own car with a driver who doubles as my security man. And on days when I am not working the car is there to take me wherever I want to go. I had a lovely time, I enjoyed it and I said to my almighty Allah that Hollywood is the next step.
The Industry Merit Award was given to her alongside another veteran actor, Sadiq Daba for their contributions towards the growth of the Nollywood at this year’s Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards.
Standing ovation greeted the announcement of the 82-year-old actress as she was wheeled to the stage to receive her priceless award. With tears rolling her cheeks, the octogenarian actress pleaded with anyone she has offended to forgive her just as she has forgiven anyone that has offended her. Her speech was emotional as silence enveloped the hall while it lasted.
One of her sons is Abounce (Olakunle Fawole), a veteran rapper. Abounce is one the founding fathers of the Nigerian Hip Hop culture. He is also a music producer and actor (a trait he got from his legendary mother, the sensational screen goddess Bukky Ajayi). Abounce has featured in films like Diamond Ring, Apostle Kasali, Cash Money among others.
She passed on at the age of 82, at about 11am on July 6, 2016. Reports say that she has been battling with a heart related condition before she passed on at her Surulere residence. Before her death, she left an order to have her buried immediately; therefore she was laid to rest at Atan Cementery at 4pm according to Islamic rites.
Her exit will leave an indelible footprint on the entertainment industry.
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