Christina Ama Ata Aidoo lived a life many can only dream of. The writer passed away in the early hours of Wednesday 31st May 2023, after a short illness.
In her well-lived 81 years on earth, she made notable contributions as a writer, activist, and cultural figure. Her work, philosophies and Pan-African advocacy continues to resonate with scholars around the world. Her work explores the far-reaching aspects of sexism, colonialism & traditionalism on the African continent. Her reputation as an uncensored truth speaker far precedes her as she paved the way for many female writers to come.
Some of her feats include:
- Being the first published African woman dramatist – She was the first African woman to publish a play which was her first work – The Dilemma of a Ghost was published in 1965 while obtaining her degree in Bachelor of Arts in English at the University of Ghana. The play was published by Longman.
- She was the first woman to be appointed minister of education in Ghana after going from being a professor at the University of Cape Coast.
- Her writing has had a profound impact on African literature, feminist discourse, and postcolonial studies viz a viz the publication of her first novel, a semi-autobiographical Our Sister Killjoy.
- In 1994, she co-founded the Women’s World Organization for Rights Development and Literature, an organization formed to campaign on behalf of women’s rights by means of publishing and other resources.
Ama Ata Aidoo was of royal heritage and she was greatly influenced by her father in her childhood, who started the first school in her village teaching history to the children as a way to counteract the indoctrination by British colonists happening elsewhere in Ghana. As nobility in a country that was plagued with Anti-colonial sentiment, she greatly imbibed the traditions, folklore, and rituals of her tribe coupled with Western education. You can see her writing is heavily influenced & reminiscent of these experiences.
She broke boundaries and used her book to elevate certain causes, especially feminism, and a quote in her book: Changes: A love story, comes to mind.
“Love? Love? Love is not safe, my lady silk, love is dangerous. It is deceitfully sweet like wine from a fresh palm tree at dawn. Love is fine for singing about and love songs are good to listen to, sometimes even to dance to. But when we need to count on human strength, and when we have to count pennies for food for our stomachs and clothes for our backs, love is nothing. Ah my lady, the last man any woman should think of marrying is the man she loves.”
― Ama Ata Aidoo, Changes: A Love Story
This book juxtaposes a better reality for women living in deadbeat marriages. How the woman in this story was able to make choices for the betterment of herself and that of her close family. She cleverly portrays the conflict between the need for love & independence & the many complexities involved.
Aidoo is considered one of the pioneering voices in African women’s writing. Through her works, she was able to challenge patriarchal norms, explore the experiences of African women, and highlight their agency and resilience despite the odds. Her literary contributions have paved the way for several prolific female writers such as Chimamanda Adichie, Yaba Daboe and so many more.
Her strong personality, practicality & foresight is felt in all her stories, making her a strong voice in Ghana & the world as a whole. Her works have influenced a generation of African female writers & continue to inspire readers and immensely contribute to the rich literary landscape of Africa and beyond.