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Retro: The life and times of late veteran Nollywood actress Bukky Ajayi

Retro: The life and times of late veteran Nollywood actress Bukky Ajayi

When it comes to recounting how the Nigerian movie industry was shaped, name of late veteran actress Zainab Bukky Ajayi will never be omitted. She joined the industry at a very young age and remained relevant till she passed away.


Mama Ajayi has fondly called by family and friends was born on February 2, 1934 in the United Kingdom (UK). She also completed her education there with the help of a federal government scholarship. The deceased studied at the Stanislavsky Institute of Drama in London. In 1965, she left England for Nigeria where her career began as a presenter and newscaster for Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in 1966.


Mama Ajayi’s love for the theatre was influenced by her father who took her to the cinemas as a young girl. Her interest for acting was so much that she used to do a cardboard sort of cinema for children and charge half a penny to come and watch.

Retro: The life and times of late veteran Nollywood actress Bukky Ajayi

Late veteran Nollywood actress Bukky Ajayi. Source:

She moved on to become a presenter and then a news reader while still with NTA. She presented a couple of children’s programmes and Nigerian’s Sketches, a programme which was all about Nigerian culture. She was later transferred to Port Harcourt and back to Lagos where she kicked off her acting career. Her first role was in the movie Village Headmaster in the 70’s and she later got a role in Amaka Igwe’s Checkmate.

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Late Mama Ajayi has three sons. She could be described as a woman of valor and be counted amongst those who rocked the joys of motherhood before her death. Alfred Oluwole Shoga is her eldest son. He loves to keep his private matters away from the public, so he prefers to stay away from the press. Akinwande Thomas is the second son of late Bukky Ajayi. He also did not follow mother steps on becoming a public person. He only started to give interviews after his mother’s death. Olakunle Fawole is the last born who has managed to follow the steps of his mother. He is rapper and one of the founders of hip-hop culture in Nigeria. He is also a Nollywood star and husband of famous Nollywood actress, Yvonne Jegede.


It could be recalled that on Wednesday, July 6, 2016 Nollywood was thrown into mourning when the news filtered out that the legendary actress passed away. It was a rude shock when details emerged that the movie thespian was battling ill-health for some time before her demise.

What will however be difficult to appreciate is the vacuum she has left behind because she was undeniably one of the best and greatest talents to have ever graced the Nigerian creative arts screen.

One of her sons, Fawole disclosed that his late mother who passed away around 11:23am on July 6, 2016 at the age of 82-year-old was ill for a while which resulted to her being on a wheelchair. The young man also added that, his mother suffered cerebral malaria before her death adding that, she became diabetic and hypertensive.

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On Saturday, March 5, 2016 at the fourth edition of the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA), the veteran received an Industry Merit Award. A standing ovation greeted the announcement of the aged actress, who was wheeled to the stage to receive her award which was to be her last public outing.

RIP Bukky Ajay, the industry surely misses you!

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