Ama Ata Aidoo, Groundbreaking Ghanaian Writer, Dies at 81

Ama Ata Aidoo, a Ghanaian playwright, writer and activist hailed as one of Africa’s leading literary lights as well as one of the most influential feminists, died on Wednesday. He is 81 years old.

his family said in a statement that he died after a short illness. The statement did not specify a cause or where he died.

In a broad career that includes writing plays, novels and short stories, stints on several university faculties and, briefly, positions as cabinet ministers in Ghana, Ms. Aidoo established itself as the leading voice of post-colonial Africa.

His breakthrough play, “The Dilemma of a Ghost,” published in 1965, explored the cultural dislocation experienced by a Ghanaian student returning home after studying abroad and by his black American wife, who must confront the legacies of colonialism and slavery. . It is one of several works by Ms. Aidoo which is a staple in West African schools.

Throughout her literary career, Ms. Aidoo seeks to illuminate the paradoxes faced by modern African women, who are still burdened by the legacy of colonialism. She rejected what she described as the “Western perception that African women are poor oppressed people.”

His novel “Changes: A Love Story”, which won 1992 Commonwealth Writers Prize for best book, Africa, describes the psychic and cultural dilemma faced by Esi, an educated, career-focused woman in Accra, the capital of Ghana, who leaves her husband after he raped her and enters into a polygamous relationship with a wealthy man.

In this work and many others, Ms. Aidoo tells the story of African women’s struggle to gain recognition and equality, a struggle, according to her, that cannot be separated from the long shadow of colonialism.

“Our Sister Killjoy” is Ms. Aidoo.

His landmark debut novel, “Our Sister Killjoy, or Reflections From a Black-Eyed Squint” (1977), recounts the experiences of Sissie, a young Ghanaian woman who travels to Europe on a scholarship to better herself, as the move has traditionally described, with Westerners. education. In Germany and England, he came face to face with the dominance of white values, including Western ideas of success, among his fellow African expatriates.

As a Fulbright scholar who spent many years as an expatriate, including stints as an in-house writer at the University of Richmond in Virginia and as a visiting professor in the Africana studies department at Brown University, Ms. Aidoo also experienced feelings of cultural dislocation.

“I’ve always felt uncomfortable living abroad: the racism, the cold, the weather, the food, the people,” he said in a 2003 interview published by the University of Alicante in Spain. “I also feel a kind of patriotic guilt. Something like, Oh, my dear! Look at all the problems we have at home. What am I doing here?”

Whatever his feelings about life abroad, he was welcome in Western literary circles. A 1997 article in The New York Times recounted how her appearance at a New York University conference for women writers of African descent “was greeted with the respect reserved for heads of state”.

Although he never rose to the title, he did become Ghana’s minister of education, a designation he accepted in 1982 with the aim of making education free for all. He resigned after 18 months when he realized the many obstacles he had to overcome to reach the goal.

Novel Ms. Aidoo’s “Changes: A Love Story” won the 1992 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best book, Africa.

After moving to Zimbabwe in 1983, Ms. Aidoo develops curriculum for the country’s Ministry of Education. She has also made her mark in the non-profit field, establishing the Mbaasem Foundation in 2000 to support African women writers.

He is the main Pan-African voice, arguing for unity among African nations and for their continued liberation. He spoke furiously about the exploitation of the continent’s natural resources and people over the centuries.

“Since we met you 500 years ago, now look at ushe said in an interview with a French journalist in 1987, later sampled in the 2020 song “The Monsters You Made” by Nigerian Afrobeat star Burna Boy. “We have given everything, you are still taking. I mean where is the rest of the Western world without us Africans? Our cocoa, wood, gold, diamonds, platinum.”

“All that you own is us,” he continued. “I didn’t say. That’s a fact. And in return for all this, what do we have? There isn’t anything.”

Christina Ama Ata Aidoo and her twin brother, Kwame Ata, were born on 23 March 1942 in the village of Fanti in Abeadzi Kyiakor, in the central region of Ghana that became known by its colonial name, Gold Coast.

His father, Nana Yaw Fama, was the head of the village who built his first school, and his mother was Maame Abba Abasema. Information about survivors Ms. Aidoo is not immediately available.

His grandfather had been imprisoned and tortured by the British, a fact he would later cite when describing himself as “coming from a long line of warriors”.

He said he felt a literary calling from an early age. “At 15 years old,” he says, “a teacher asked me what I wanted to do for a career, and without knowing why or even how, I replied that I wanted to be a poet.”

Four years later, he won a short story contest. On seeing the story published by the newspaper sponsoring the competition, he said, “I’ve articulated a dream.”

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