By Nehru Odeh
Announcing her death, the family head, Kwamena Essandoh Aidoo, said: “The Family of Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo with deep sorrow but in the hope of the resurrection, informs the general public that our beloved relative and writer passed away in the early hours of this morning Wednesday 31st May 2023, after a short illness. Funeral arrangements would be announced in due course. The family requests privacy at this difficult moment.”
The Pan African Writers Association, PAWA, has described the passing of the renowned Ghanaian poet and author as shocking. In a condolence letter signed by PAWA’s President, Hon John Rusimbi, and the Secretary-General, Dr Wale Okediran, the association commiserated with the family of the deceased, the Government and people of the Republic of Ghana as well as African Writers at large on this irreparable loss.
A university professor, Ata Aidoo won many literary awards including the 1992 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Changes, a love story about a statistician who divorces her first husband and enters into a polygamist marriage.
A renowned feminist, she depicted and celebrated the condition of African women in works such as The Dilemma of a Ghost, Our Sister Killjoy and Changes.
She opposed what she described as a “Western perception that the African female is a downtrodden wretch”. She also served as education minister in the early 1980s but resigned when she could not make education free.
Her work, including plays like Anowa, have been read in schools across West Africa, along with works of other greats like Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe.
Born on March 23, 1942 in Abeadzi Kyiakor, near Saltpond, Gold Coast [now Ghana]) Aidoo, whose full name was Christina Ama Ata Aidoo, was a prolific writer whose work emphasised the paradoxical position of the modern African woman.
Aidoo began to write seriously while an honours student at the University of Ghana (B.A., 1964). She won early recognition with The Dilemma of a Ghost (1965), in which a Ghanaian student returning home brings his African American wife into the traditional culture and the extended family that he now finds restrictive.
Their dilemma reflects Aidoo’s characteristic concern with the “been-to” (African educated abroad), voiced again in her semi-autobiographical experimental first novel, Our Sister Killjoy; or, Reflections from a Black-Eyed Squint (1966).
Aidoo herself won a fellowship at Stanford University in California, returned to teach at Cape Coast, Ghana (1970–82), and subsequently accepted various visiting professorships in the United States and Kenya.
In No Sweetness Here (1970), a collection of short stories, Aidoo exercised the oral element of storytelling, writing tales that are meant to be read aloud.
These Stories and Anowa (1970), another problem play, are concerned with Western influences on the role of women and on the individual in a communal society. Aidoo rejected the argument that Western education emancipates African women.
She further exposed the exploitation of women who, as unacknowledged heads of households when war or unemployment leaves them without husbands, must support their children alone.
Aidoo published little between 1970 and 1985, when Someone Talking to Sometime, a collection of poetry, appeared.Her later titles include The Eagle and the Chickens (1986; a collection of children’s stories), Birds and Other Poems (1987), the novel Changes: A Love Story (1991), An Angry Letter in January and Other Poems (1992), The Girl Who Can and Other Stories (1997), and Diplomatic Pounds and Other Stories (2012).