MAMA EKUNDAYO, A WOMAN WITH HEART OF GOLD
PROFILE |MEET MAMA EKUNDAYO – THE WOMAN WHO OPENED HER DOORS TO OVER 500 ORPHANS AND ABANDONED CHILDREN
Popularly known as the Mother Theresa of Africa, Mama Janet Ekundayo dedicated her life to taking care of orphans. She projected the meaning of her name, “Ekundayo,” which is translated to mean, “(my) tears has turned to joy.” Mama Ekundayo had five biological children of her own but that did not stop her from adopting others because of her love for children. Mama Ekundayo enjoyed the company of children and so taking care of them came naturally to her.
In 1969, Mama Ekundayo decided to dedicate the rest of her life to taking care of orphans and abandoned children. She took in the 469th child by 2007. By the year 2008; she had cared for over 500 children. One interesting thing about Mama Ekundayo was that all the children she cared for were from all over the country, from different tribes and ethnicity.
Located in Isanlu Makutu, a rural part of Kogi State, her orphanage is called Ekundayo Children’s Home.
Although, Mama Ekundayo received donations from kind-hearted individuals and other institutions, she also used her little provisions in caring for the children. Mama Ekundayo always referred to taking care of the children, a calling she could not resist. She was said to be always full of smiles and also loved to sing. Unfortunately in 2009, Mama died.
MEET THE FIRST WOMAN TO BECOME MISS NIGERIA
Grace Atinuke Oyelude was the first ever Miss Nigeria of the maiden edition of the beauty pageant held in 1957. Miss Nigeria started in 1957 as a photo contest, whereby contestants sent photographs of themselves to The Daily Times headquarters in Lagos. Finalists were shortlisted and then invited to compete in the live final contest at the Lagos Island Club.
Not many knew of mama until Nigerian singer, TY Bello produced a song titled ‘Ekundayo’ in 2008 in her honour. The song was part of her popular album, Greenland. Ty Bello’s Description of Mama Ekundayo In 2014:
Holding my camera really close to her, silence fell again in between her songs of praise she would suddenly pause and look up and out lost in a trancelike gaze at what only she could see. It felt like the earth stood still, then she would fall back into song again.
This must have happened six times while I made portraits of her. The moments were holy. I didn’t interfere but I knew it was fine to photograph. It felt like I came close enough with my lens I could partake in whatever it was that had her transfixed.
Strangely I was never too close. It was almost as if I wasn’t even there. That was exactly seven years ago. A year later, @tosynbucknor and a group of people had taken a trip to see her. They came back with a gift. Mama had taken time to knit me a green and white ‘oja’, a traditional swaddle or scarf used for carrying a baby on ones back. Mama and I never really spoke about babies. I was also sure she knew I didn’t have any kids so it baffled me that she specifically told them to tell me it was for my son.
Madam Ekundayo passed away barely a year after her gift came. Shortly afterward, I got a call from someone else who had gone to see her before she passed. Mama made a gift for you TY. She sent it through someone and it’s taken a while to come.
When the gift came, I was brought to tears. She sent a photograph of herself and had knitted the exact green and white scarf she sent a few months before. Five years later, I’m a mother of twin boys. I stared at her photos and wondered what she gazed at in a distance. Did she see God? Did she see the future? I can say this for sure. I’m certain she saw my sons.
We celebrate Mama today and always. Thanks for touching lives. Keep sleeping well in the bosom of the most high.
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