Ajai-Lycett at 80: What love means to me

Ajai-Lycett at 80: What love means to me

Wednesday, March 10, 2021 3:36 pm

Taiwo Ajai-Lycett. Photo by Ayo Efunla

By Nehru Odeh

There is no getting away from her. She has shattered the glass ceiling. She has done what many in similar circumstances couldn’t do. And not only has she had her hand in many pots and succeeded with them, she has carved a niche for herself as an actress both in the United Kingdom and Nigeria.

Still, the intriguing thing about her success story is that she was rejected by her parents when she was 15, pregnant and knew so little about the world. Yet she moved on and, by sheer dint of hard work, achieved outstanding success not only as an actress but also in several fields of human endeavour. And at 80 she is not just a role model, but also an inspiration to many who still drink from her fountain of knowledge.

This is the remarkable story of Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, actress, who turned 80 recently. Still, another intriguing about this octogenarian is that even at her age, she believe so much in acquiring knowledge and reading so much so that she still acquire books and read voraciously. According to her, love is measured not by the sheer giving of gifts but by the gifting of books. That is, the only way she can know if somebody truly loves her is if they give her books.

Books? Certainly. She made this disclosure on Sunday 7 march, 2021 at Freedom Park, Lagos, when the  Committee for Relevant Art, CORA, and the National Association of Theatre Art Practitioners, NATAP, not only celebrated her through its ArtHouse Forum but also presented a set of  books written by internationally acclaimed  writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, to her as a gift. The theme of the event which was attended by distinguished members of the arts community in Nigeria, was Now that you have broken the glass ceiling. What next?  The event was also organized to mark the 2021 International Women’s Day, (IWD)

In what was the climax of an evening of tributes, performances and photo sessions, the celebrant expressed her appreciation profusely for the gift, saying that books were the best gifts anyone could offer her as a show of love.

“I want to thank all of you for spending time to be here today, I am a Queen actually. Somebody said I’m acting like a queen. I don’t have to act it. I am a queen. You have given me a throne. You have coronated me, so to speak.

“Only two thing I am about to say about today, about you all. There are secrets you don’t know. But I am going to reveal them today. Did you say tokens?

“These are symbolic things. Little did you know if I wanted to know somebody truly loves me, they give me books. That is my secret. Because I believe that if somebody loves me enough to know that this is where I live, that is another love of my life. So this is not mere token. This is real to me. I walk through treasure troves. And I collect. And you are adding to my own incredible fortune.

“Now this is symbolic of love, and I mean real love.  So gold, diamonds, they don’t mean very much to me. But knowledge and the pursuit of knowledge, the seeking of knowledge, the actual getting of knowledge.

However, the thespian dropped a snag, waxing pragmatic and saying that acquiring knowledge just for the sake of it is not enough. She believes that the acquisition of knowledge is contingent on its proper use.

“But of all the things you said today, it is one thing to have knowledge. But knowledge, as I say to you, is contingent on the proper use of it. Otherwise, it is nothing.  So that is our contribution to society, that we acquire knowledge, and that we use that knowledge.  It is very important.”

The actress also expressed appreciation to CORA and the arts community for the support they had given her, saying that they are the only family she has.  She made mention of the fact when she lost her husband, it was the arts tribe who took it upon itself to bury him, adding that in the early hours of her birthday, it was the same arts community that woke her up to felicitate with her.

“This is my family. You don’t know where I live. You don’t know how I eat. But as I said everything lives here. It is what you make of life. It is what you think of your life. It is how you live your life. Everything is holographic. We make our lives how we want to make it… You are not committed to love me because you are my brothers by blood, but you love me. There is no greater love than this.  So I want to thank you.

“That’s the secret of my glory. That is the secret of my life, that every one of you, I love you, and I really love you. Together we can do great things. “I call you my family. When my husband died, this group of people buried my husband. They didn’t know him from Adam. … I am living a utopia. I live it. They buried my husband like he was their husband, like he was their father. You guys don’t know the value of this group that we have. I wish that you know it. This is the secret of my passion for all of you.

”This is because it is the same family. It is among the things we need to teach the world. So he is from France, Who cares where he comes from? Who cares where anybody comes from? That’s the world that I live in. That’s the world that I love.

Indeed, it was an evening of tributes, as distinguished guests not only poured encomiums on her but spoke about how she had not only been a role model to them but had also paved the way. And they thanked her profusely for what she had done for the arts and for them. Toyin Akinosho gave the opening remarks on behalf of CORA, extolling the celebrant’s greatness and welcoming the audience to the event. And that set the tone for the event and kick-started a potpourri of tributes, reminiscences and sharing of ideas.

The guests included Nollywood actress Joke Silva and her husband, Olu Jacobs, Bolanle Austen Peters, Ben Tomoloju, Kayode Aderinokun, Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, Toki Mabogunje, Ifeoma Fafunwa, Lara Akinshola and Iyabo Aboaba. Yinka Davies and Aye-Ola Mabiaku thrilled the audience with their scintillating dance performance and poetic renditions entitled Thank God She Is A Woman and I Do Not Want To Be A Man, respectively.

And as the theme of the parley says, now that Ajai-Lycett has shattered the glass ceiling. What Next? Infinite possibilities for her and the women folk.

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