Java blacksmith and family shocked to know they were saved by Obama’s mum

Sunday, November 8, 2009

NEW YORK - In a remote corner of rural Java, a blacksmith and his family were astounded last week to learn that the American woman who helped save them from poverty 26 years ago was Ann Dunham, an anthropologist better known as the late mother of US President Barack Obama.

Dunham is still remembered in the central Javan hamlet of Kajar as a generous benefactor whose gifts of money, food and schoolbooks helped numerous villagers.

Yet none of them had realised that the woman who paid several visits to research rural crafts in the 1980s had a son who was to become America’s 44th president.

Told by The Sunday Times that Dunham was Barack Obama’s mother, Darmo Sujak, a 67-year-old blacksmith, said he was “shocked” to discover the full identity of the woman who had changed his life.

Sujak recalled how Dunham arrived at his home in 1983 in a white Jeep with more than 100lb of rice, sweets, pens and school books.

He said Dunham, who died of cancer in Hawaii in 1995 at the age of 52, had given him four donations worth the equivalent of 1,000 dollars. The money enabled him to build his house, expand his business and pay for his children’s education.

Other villagers recognised Dunham, and themselves, from photographs that are included with parts of her graduate thesis in a book that will be published next month with a foreword by Maya Soetoro-Ng, Dunham’s daughter by her second marriage and Obama’s half-sister.

Soetoro-Ng said last week she was happy to learn that her mother was still remembered in the Javan villages where she did most of her research while Barack, then a teenager, remained in Hawaii with his grandparents.

Dunham first visited Indonesia in the 1960s with her second husband, Lolo Soetoro. Obama lived with them in Jakarta for four years from 1967-71. When the couple split up in 1972, Dunham moved to Hawaii before returning to her Indonesian research in 1977.

Barack was 16 at the time, and decided to stay with his grandparents in Honolulu. (ANI)

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