Over the ages, Ghana has produced great minds and people of change. A form of change that has not only sent ripples through Africa, but the world. As part of our new segment; “Hero Profile” we shine the light on a champion for change, an author, Pan-Africa feminist, playwright and a respected personality: Ama Ata Aidoo. She has been an inspiration and she’s one of the most respected and influential Ghanaian women.
Ama Ata Aidoo, born Christina Ama Aidoo was born on 23rd March 1942 to Fante parents from Saltpond in the Central Region of Ghana to an affluent family. Ama at a young age was enrolled at Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast from 1961-1964 by her father who was an advocate for Western Education.
After graduating from high school, she enrolled at the University of Ghana, Legon where she pursued English and earned her first Bachelor of Arts Degree.
The first African woman dramatist published
Ama Ataa Aidoo had a penchant for storytelling. An interest that developed when she was a little girl living in a Fante royal household. She would sit for hours listening to folk tales from the older men and women.
It was during her study years at Legon that she wrote her first play, the Dilemma of a Ghost. The play, while staged in 1965, would be published in 1966. This made Ama the first African woman dramatist to have her work published. After graduating,
Ama Ataa Aidoo worked in the United States where she held a fellowship in creative writing at Stanford University.
Ama also served as a research fellow at the institute of African studies, University of Ghana upon returning to the country. She also worked as a Lecturer and eventually became a Professor at the University of Cape Coast all the while teaching English.
Ama would eventually work and live in other countries like England, Germany and Zimbabwe, also serving as a Professor in the African Studies Department of Brown University (USA) and teaching English Courses at the Hamilton College (New York).
Ministry of Education
In 1982, Ama was appointed as the Minister of Education and the Provisional National Defense Council. A role she served in for 18 months before resigning over her conflicting ideas and opinions with the ruling Government at her time.
She firmly believed that education should be accessible for all Ghanaians. A notion that was hindered by the activities of the ruling Government during her time in office.
Ama Ata Aidoo was a feminist activist. As evidenced by her fictional work which mostly centered around the lives of women and provided an in-depth conversation and satire about Africans trying to adopt the culture of the western despite their self-proclaimed love for their motherland.
Her work also threw the spotlight on the tensions of the traditional African society and slavery. Her vocal feminism through creative writing has earned her the reputation of being one of the leading advocates of feminism and first among the African diaspora’s feminist literary Artists with her influence on social issues being transformative.
Some of her works have been featured as part of the English syllabus in Ghana Educational Curriculum. Ama’s works have been recognized as one of the best Ghanaian writers globally. Below are some of Ama Ata Aidoo’s works of fiction.
Ama Ata Aidoo’s works of fiction
The dilemma of a ghost
Published in 1966. This premise of this play surrounds a Ghanaian man who returned from a trip to the United States with an African-American wife to the dismay of his family. This play offers an insight into the struggle of the African child born overseas who struggles to reconnect with her cultural past and her place in it.
The play also offers a distinct perspective on Africans who deviate and adopt foreign culture over the land of their birth and the dilemma that comes with it.
Our sister killjoy
Ama Ata Aidoo wrote this novel as a reflection of her experiences living overseas. Published by Longman in 1977, the story centers around a Ghanaian student, Sisie who is awarded a scholarship to study in Europe. Our sister Killjoy display’s the unapologetic African who despite being a “fish out of water” does all she can to succeed, when placed out of her element without succumbing to the pressures and influence of outsiders.
This book while being one Ama’s great works about the African Identity and self-pride caught some flak and controversy for throwing light on same sex relationship despite being a strong commentary on African expatriates.
Anowa is a play about a young woman of the same name (Ansowa) who rejects tribal conventions and marries a man of her own choosing despite the protest of her family. She is forced to live with the consequences of her actions as a result of her inherent pride.
Published in 1970 as a tragedy, Anowa is a social commentary about Africans role in the evils of slavery and Africans view of marriage customs, as well as a feminist analysis that displays the African women struggle against a detrimental perception of womanhood in her society.
Changes: A love Story
Perhaps Ama Ata Aidoo’s greatest work, ‘Changes: a love story’ is a novel that has received international recognition as evidenced by it’s success that earned Ama Ata Aidoo a Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book. The novel centers on the life of Esi, a woman who falls in love outside her marriage and contemplates divorce after her struggles at the hands of her husband.
This novel draws parallels between the modern educated and the traditional way of life. It also takes a feminist approach to the subject of divorce among other themes.
Ama Ata Aidoo to this day remain admired by the masses for her unique vision, commentary and feminist approach to African and social matters. As well as her role as a leading beacon for female African writers.
Recognitions and prizes
Ama Ata Aidoo was the recipient of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book in Africa for her novel “Changes”. The Aidoo Snyder book prize which is awarded by the African studies Association for an outstanding book published by a woman who prioritizes African experiences is named in honor of Ama Ata Aidoo and Margaret C. Snyder.
In 2017, the African University College of Communication (AUCC) launched “The Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing”. The first of its kind in West Africa. A homage to her.
In the year 2000, recognizing the needs of women writers, Aidoo established Mbaasem (which loosely translates to: “women’s words”) a foundation dedicated to promoting the work of female African writers.
Ama Ata Aidoo inspired a whole new generation of women and men from both the African Diaspora and beyond. Particularly reminding the African child of their identity and what it means to be an African, and a good one at that.