Remembering Ama Ata Aidoo: A legacy of literature and activism

Stories and facts

Christina Ama Ata Aidoo was a versatile Ghanaian figure who made a lasting impact as an author, poet, playwright, politician, and academic. Remarkably, she held the position of Secretary for Education in Ghana from 1982 to 1983 during Jerry Rawlings's PNDC administration.

Ama Ata Aidoo was born in Abeadzi Kyiakor, near Saltpond, in the Central Region of Ghana, on March 23, 1942, or, according to some sources, on March 31. Raised in a Fante royal household, Aidoo was the daughter of Nana Yaw Fama, chief of Abeadzi Kyiakor, and Maame Abasema. Her early exposure to the murder of her grandfather by neocolonialists fueled her father's commitment to education, prompting him to establish the first school in their village. This early influence inspired Aidoo to pursue her education at Wesley Girls' High School, where her passion for writing began to take shape.

After attending Wesley Girls' Senior High School, Aidoo enrolled at the University of Ghana, Legon, in 1961. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English and made history by becoming the first published female African dramatist with her play, The Dilemma of a Ghost, published in 1965.

Following her academic achievements, Aidoo ventured abroad, securing a fellowship in creative writing at Stanford University in California. She returned to Ghana in 1969 to teach English at the University of Ghana, later becoming a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies and a lecturer in English at the University of Cape Coast. Aidoo's dedication to education led her to serve as Minister of Education under the Provisional National Defence Council in 1982, a position she held for 18 months before resigning due to challenges in achieving her goal of making education freely accessible to all.

Aidoo's literary contributions extended beyond Ghana's borders. In 1983, she relocated to Zimbabwe, where she continued her work in education and writing. Notable works during this period include a collection of poems titled Someone Talking to Sometime (1985) and a children's book, The Eagle and the Chickens and Other Stories (1986).

She remained an influential figure in the literary world, delivering the Walter Rodney Visions of Africa lecture in London in 1986. Aidoo's commitment to African women writers was evident in her co-founding, alongside Jayne Cortez, of the Organization of Women Writers of Africa (OWWA) in 1991.

From 2004 to 2011, Aidoo served as a visiting professor in the Africana Studies Department at Brown University. She also chaired the Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival from its inception in 2011.

Aidoo's literary repertoire includes notable plays like The Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa. Her first novel, Our Sister Killjoy (1977), challenged prevailing notions about sexuality in Africa, particularly addressing LGBT themes. The novel Changes: A Love Story earned her the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 1992.

Her commitment to women's causes and Pan-Africanism resonated in her writings, emphasizing a distinct African identity and criticizing the exploitation of Africa's resources. In 2000, Aidoo established the Mbaasem Foundation to support African women writers.

Aidoo's editorial endeavors included overseeing the anthology African Love Stories (2006) and publishing Diplomatic Pounds & Other Stories in 2012.

Ama Ata Aidoo's influence extended beyond her lifetime. Her death on May 31, 2023, in Accra marked the end of an era. President Nana Akufo-Addo acknowledged her contributions, announcing a state funeral to honor "an outstanding writer, advocate for women's cause, the cause of Africans, and the progressive people around the world."

The state funeral, held from July 13 to July 16, included rites at the State House, lying-in-state in her hometown of Abeadze Kyiakor, and a thanksgiving church service and burial on July 16. Ama Ata Aidoo's legacy lives on, not only in her literary works but also in the impact she had on education, women's rights, and Pan-Africanism.

Explore the life of Ama Ata Aidoo below.



Be the first to leave a comment!