What to know about late Ghanaian author, Ama Ata Aidoo

ON Wednesday, May 31, renowned Ghanaian author, playwright and poet, Ama Ata Aidoo, passed on. 

She was 81.

Her passing was announced in a post on her official Instagram account.

“We are despondent to announce to you the passing away of our beloved grandmother, mother, auntie and sister Ama Ata Aidoo. A woman with intelligence who helped the African Literature scene.

“She’s indeed with the most high up there. Till we meet again, we bid you farewell mama. You’re indeed a legend. Rest easy Ama Ata Aidoo. #rip #restinpeace #restinparadise #ghana #literature #amataaidoo”, the message read.

Aidoo reportedly died after a brief illness, according to a statement released by her family.

“Our beloved relative and writer passed away after a short illness,” the family disclosed while urging members of the public to respect their privacy as they mourn the literary icon.

Born on March 23, 1942, in Abeadzi Kyiakor, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Aidoo was celebrated for her significant contributions to African literature and her commitment to feminist ideals.

Her father had established the first school in their village which held a significant influence on her upbringing.

At the tender age of 15, she resolved to pursue a career as a writer, and within a mere span of four years, she managed to fulfill her aspiration when she received encouragement to participate in a writing competition.

She studied English and Drama at the University of Ghana and went further to earn a Masters degree in English from Stanford University in the United States.

She also furthered her studies at the University of Ghana, where she obtained a Diploma in Education.

She produced her first play, ‘The Dilemma of a Ghost’ in 1965 which made her the first published African woman dramatist.

In the early 1980s, she assumed the role of education minister. However, she decided to step down from the position due to her inability to implement tuition-free education.

Aidoo’s writing often explores themes of gender, identity, cultural conflict, and post-colonialism. She is known for her strong female characters who challenge societal norms and advocate for women’s rights.

Her works are characterised by their rich storytelling, vivid imagery, and sharp social commentary.

Some of Aidoo’s notable works include her novel “Our Sister Killjoy” (1977), which critiques the impact of Western culture on Africa, and her collection of short stories titled “No Sweetness Here” (1970), which delves into issues of gender and social inequality.

She wrote several plays which were read in schools across West Africa, including “Anowa” (1970) and “Dilemma of a Ghost” (1965), both of which examine the complexities of African identity and cultural assimilation.

Another of her works, “Girl who can” (2003) analyses African women’s struggle to find their rightful place in society. In the “African love stories” (2006), a double award-winning collection of love stories, she tries to debunk the impression that African women are impoverished victims. The stories in the collection deal with challenging themes surrounding some of the most complex love stories.

Throughout her career, Ama Ata Aidoo received numerous accolades for her literary achievements.

In 2000, she was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Africa) for her novel “Changes.” She has also been honoured with the Nelson Mandela Award for Poetry (2015) and the Ghana Book Award for Prose (2018).

Aside from her literary pursuits, Aidoo was actively involved in promoting education and women’s rights in Ghana.

She held various academic positions, including serving as a lecturer and professor at universities in Ghana, the United States and Zimbabwe.

Her commitment to feminism and social justice has made her a respected figure both in Ghana and internationally.

She was a major influence on the younger generation of writers, including Nigeria’s awarding-winning Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Through her writings and activism, she made significant contributions to African literature, feminism and the exploration of African identity in the post-colonial context.

Tributes

Several notable personalities, including actors and members of the literary community, have paid tribute to the late Aidoo.

Mourning Aidoo, veteran Ghanaian actor, Kofi Adjorlolo, noted that a great African intellectual had fallen.

Oh I am so very distraught. Another great African intellectual has fallen. Her books include that of other great African intellectuals.

“Prof Ama Aidoo and other great African minds fine-tuned some of us, especially ‘ME’ to realise what African heritage means, where we are from, who we are and what the outlook will be in the future for us as Africans.”

A Ghanaian NGO, Pen to Paper Ghana, described Aidoo as a great supporter of Ghanaian writers. 

“On her passing, we celebrate the life and legacy of Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo, writer, poet, activist and great supporter of the Writers Project of Ghana from the very start. While we mourn her passing, we also celebrate her work for writers, women and the literary space”.

Similarly, the President of Institute Museum of Ghana, Joseph Awuah-Darko, paid tribute to Aidoo in a social media post where he described her as a defender of marginalised members of the society.

In the post he said, “RIP Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo- poet and a literary luminary whose passing leaves a profound void, leaves behind a legacy that will forever illuminate the literary world. She was secretary in Ghana from 1982-1983. Through her works, Aidoo championed the voices of African women and deftly dismantled societal barriers.






     

     

    “Aidoo’s intellectual prowess and unwavering commitment to social justice serve as a guiding light, reminding us of the power of literature to challenge norms, ignite change and shape a more inclusive world – a defender of marginalised members of society.”

    Awuah-Darko however noted that Aidoo’s indomitable spirit will live on through her works.

    “In Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo’s departure, we mourn the loss of a literary giant, but her indomitable spirit lives on through her works, ideas and the lasting impact she has made. Her works remain an enduring testament to her brilliance courage, unwavering commitment to equality and justice.

    “You are one of the reasons I wanted to be a writer, we will miss you.”

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