Ama Ata Aidoo, Ghanaian author who advised tales of girls, dies at 81


Ama Ata Aidoo, a Ghanaian playwright and creator who grew to become one among Africa’s main literary voices, exploring West African society via the eyes of girls and the ghosts of the previous akin to colonial rule and slavery, died Might 31 at 81.

A household assertion introduced the loss of life however provided no extra particulars.

Ms. Aidoo’s profession included stints in academia in america and political life at house as Ghana’s secretary for training within the early Eighties. The experiences helped form among the characters and struggles over greater than a dozen novels, performs, brief tales and volumes of poetry. But she stated her work, at its core, was an extension of the oral storytelling traditions utilized by African ladies to move down lore and collective knowledge.

“African ladies have been feminists lengthy earlier than feminism,” Ms. Aidoo said.

She labored like a cultural anthropologist, sifting via layers of historical past — typically rife with oppression and exploitation — in Ghana and different components of West Africa. Almost all her central figures have been ladies making an attempt to vary their lives however going through challenges imposed by males or cultural forces greater than themselves.

In Ms. Aidoo’s first play, “The Dilemma of a Ghost” (1964), a Ghanaian scholar returns house along with his American spouse, a Black girl who grapples with a brand new lifestyle, the historic weight of the slave commerce and her ancestry, and the confusion of the post-colonial period.

“Modifications: A Love Story,” a 1991 novel that gained the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for finest ebook from Africa, was a few girl who divorces after struggling “marital rape” after which unhappily turns into one of many wives of a Muslim businessman.

In her 1977 semi-autobiographical novel, “Our Sister Killjoy,” Ms. Aidoo took goal at Western values via the racism and alienation felt by a Ghanaian scholar in Britain and Germany. Ms. Aidoo referred to as Bavaria the “coronary heart of darkness,” repurposing the title of Joseph Conrad’s novel set in Africa.

“Since we met you individuals 500 years in the past, now have a look at us,” she said in a 1987 interview whereas discussing Europe’s heavy hand in Africa. “We’ve given every little thing, you might be nonetheless taking. I imply the place will the entire Western world be with out us Africans? Our cocoa, timber, gold, diamond, platinum.”

“Every little thing you’ve gotten is us,” she added. “I’m not saying it. It’s a truth. And in return for all these, what have we received? Nothing.” (A part of her feedback have been utilized in a 2020 song, “Monsters You Made,” by Nigerian performer Burna Boy.)

Ms. Aidoo was broadly described as one among Africa’s most distinguished feminists. She tried to make clear her objectives. Feminism, she stated, was an “ideology, like socialism or pan-Africanism” that she supported however thought was too common. Ms. Aidoo noticed her mission as making an attempt to vary the narrative round African ladies.

She took offense at what she referred to as Western stereotypes of the “downtrodden wretch” in Africa — ladies seen as incapable of taking management of their very own lives and futures.

“When individuals ask me relatively bluntly every so often whether or not I’m a feminist, I not solely reply sure, however I’m going on to insist that each girl and each man ought to be a feminist,” Ms. Aidoo said at an African ladies’s convention in 1998, “particularly in the event that they imagine that Africans ought to take cost of African land, African wealth, African lives, and the burden of African improvement.”

A defining second for her got here when she was 15. A trainer requested her what kind of profession she envisioned. “With out understanding why and even how, I replied that I wished to be a poet,” she recalled.

4 years later, she gained a brief story contest and was dazzled by seeing her title in print. She purchased herself a brand new pair of footwear with the prize cash.

“I had articulated a dream … it was a serious affirmation for me as a author,” she later wrote.

‘Lengthy line of fighters’

Ama Ata Aidoo was born on March 23, 1942, in Abeadzi Kyiakor in a central area of what was identified within the West because the Gold Coast, the area’s colonial title. Her twin brother was named Kwame Ata.

Their father was a neighborhood chief of the Fante individuals and was a robust supporter of training, constructing the village’s first schoolhouse. She referred to as herself a part of “a protracted line of fighters,” typically citing her grandfather’s imprisonment and torture by British colonial authorities.

Ms. Aidoo, who for a time in her youth glided by the primary title Christina, obtained a level in English from the College of Ghana in 1964, seven years after Ghana’s independence. Ms. Aidoo was awarded a two-year inventive writing fellowship at Stanford College, then returned to Ghana in 1970 to start a 12-year tenure as a lecturer on the College of Cape Coast.

Her second play, “Anowa,” which debuted in 1970, tackled questions of Africa’s indigenous slave commerce within the nineteenth century via the lifetime of an African girl whose husband turns into an enslaver. The couple’s lives finish in tragedy.

After a coup in Ghana in late 1981 by a army officer, Jerry Rawlings, the brand new authorities lavished consideration on the humanities. Ms. Aidoo took the place of training secretary in January 1982, saying she thought “direct entry to state energy” would give her alternatives to develop training choices, significantly for women. Annoyed by the gradual tempo of reforms, she wrote her resignation letter after 18 months within the publish.

She left for Zimbabwe in 1983, engaged on curriculum packages for the nation’s training ministry. Whereas within the capital, Harare, she wrote a collection of poems, “Somebody speaking to someday” (1985), and a children’s book, “The Eagle and the Chickens and Different Tales” in 1986.

She was a writer-in-residence on the College of Richmond in 1989 and was a visiting professor within the Africana research division at Brown College from 2003 to 2010. In 2000, she based the Mbaasem Foundation in Ghana to assist African ladies writers.

“I’ve at all times felt uncomfortable residing overseas: racism, the chilly, the climate, the meals, the individuals,” she stated in a 2003 interview revealed by the College of Alicante in Spain. “I additionally felt some form of patriotic sense of guilt. One thing like, Oh, my expensive! Have a look at all the issues we have now at house. What am I doing right here?”

Survivors embrace a daughter. Full info on survivors was not instantly obtainable.

In 2014, Ms. Aidoo was requested on BBC’s “HARDtalk” program whether or not she constructs her ladies characters as a type of literary activism.

“Individuals generally query me, for example, ‘Why are your ladies so robust?’” she stated. “And I say, ‘That’s the solely girl I do know.’”


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