Iconic civil right crusader, Olufunmila ‘Kuti (1900-1978) was born in Abeokuta, in Ogun State. ‘Mama Afrika’ as fondly referred to by his legendary son, the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti, was a teacher by profession. She was the first female student at the Abeokuta Grammar School, which she attended from 1914-1917. In 1914, ‘Mama Afrika’ left for Wincham Hall School for girls, Cheshire, England, to pursue her studies.
Mrs. Olufunmilayo ‘Kuti was the doyenne of female rights, in Nigeria. She was a traditional aristocrat. She served with distinction as one of the most prominent leaders of her generation, a fearless civil right activist. “The mother of Afrika” was also, the first female to drive a car in Nigeria. She was a very powerful force advocating for the Nigerian woman’s right to vote. She was described in 1947, by the West African Pilot, as the “Lioness of Lisabi” for her leadership of the women of the Egba people on a campaign against their arbitrary taxation. Her struggle to free women from arbitrary taxation led to the abdication of the high King Oba Ademola in 1949.
Funmilayo Kuti organized literary classes for women in the early 1920s and founded a nursery school in the 1930s. She founded the Abeokuta Ladies’ Club (ALC) for educated women involved in charitable work in 1942. She also started the social Welfare for Market women club to help educate working-class women (which formed the first adult education programme for women in Nigeria)
Mrs Funmilayo ‘Kuti received the national honour of membership in the Order of the Niger in 1965. The University of Ibadan bestowed upon her the honorary doctorate of laws in 1968. She also held a seat in the Western House of Chiefs of Nigeria as an ‘Oloye’ of the ‘Yoruba’ people.
Iconic Olufunmilayo ‘Kuti was the mother of Nigerian activists the late legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti, a musician; Late Beko Kuti, a doctor and health minister. She was also a grandmother to musicians Seun Kuti and Femi Kuti. Mama was highly regarded in her Native Nigeria as an African woman.
“The mother of Afrika” defended the commoners of Nigeria until her last day on earth. Rest in peace in the abstract world.