Who was Ama Ata Aidoo?
Ama Ata Aidoo was a prominent Ghanaian author, poet, playwright, and academician. She also served as a secretary for education in Ghana from 1982 to 1983 under the administration of Jerry Rawlings PNDC.
Christina Ama Ata Aidoo was born on 23 March 1942 in Abeadzi Kyiakor, near Saltpond, in the Central Region of Ghana. Some sources (including Megan Behrent, Brown University, and Africa Who’s Who) have asserted that she was born on 31 March 1940. She had a twin brother, Kwame Ata.
Ata Aidoo was born and brought up in a Fante royal household, the daughter of Nana Yaw Fama, chief of Abeadzi Kyiakor, and Maame Abasema. She grew up at a time of resurgent British neocolonialism that was taking place in her homeland.
Her grandfather was killed by neocolonialists, which brought her father’s awareness of the importance of educating the children and families of the village on the history and events of the era. This made him open up the first school in their village and influenced Aidoo to attend Wesley Girls’ High School, where she first decided she wanted to be a writer.
Aidoo attended Wesley Girls’ Senior High School in Cape Coast from 1961 to 1964. Following her graduation, she pursued her higher education at the University of Ghana, Legon, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
It was during her time at the university that she wrote her debut play, “The Dilemma of a Ghost,” in 1964. The play garnered significant recognition as it was published by Longman the following year, establishing Aidoo as the first African woman dramatist to have her work published.
After her graduation, Ata Aidoo organized a fellowship in creative writing at Stanford University in California, before going back to Ghana in 1969 to teach English at the University of Ghana.
She served as a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies there and as a lecturer in English at the University of Cape Coast, where she finally rose to the position of professor.
Aidoo was ordained Minister of Education under the Provisional National Defence Council in 1982. She resigned after 18 months, realizing that she would not be able to achieve her aim of making education in Ghana freely accessible to all.
She has depicted the role of African women in contemporary society. She has opined that the idea of nationalism has been deployed by recent leaders as a means of keeping people oppressed.
She strongly criticized literate Africans who claim to love their country but are easily enticed by the advantages of the developed world. Her perspective emphasized a unique African identity, which she specifically viewed through the lens of women.
In 1983, she relocated to Zimbabwe, where she dedicated herself to furthering her work in education. During her time there, she served as a curriculum developer for the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education and also pursued her passion for writing.
In 1986, while in London, England, she gave the Walter Rodney Visions of Africa lecture, which was organized by the support group of the Bogle-L’Ouverture publishing house. The lecture served as a platform for Aidoo to share her insights and perspectives on African visions and aspirations.
In 1988, Aidoo was honored with a Fulbright Scholarship award, which allowed her to further her academic pursuits. As a result, she became a writer-in-residence at the University of Richmond, Virginia, in 1989. In the early to mid-1990s, she also taught a variety of English courses at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. Continuing her dedication to academia, Aidoo held the position of visiting professor in the Africana Studies Department at Brown University for seven years, concluding in 2011.
Aidoo, along with Dele Olojede, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, Margaret Busby, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, and Zakes Mda, served as patrons of the Etisalat Prize for Literature. This prestigious award, established in 2013, aimed to provide a platform for African writers who had published their debut works of fiction. Their involvement as patrons demonstrated their dedication to promoting and celebrating emerging African literary voices.
Aidoo’s plays include The Dilemma of a Ghost, produced at Legon in 1964 (first published in 1965) and Pittsburgh in 1988, and Anowa, published in 1971 and produced at the Gate Theatre in London in 1991.
Her works of fiction particularly deal with the tension between Western and African world views. Her first novel, Our Sister Killjoy, was published in 1977 and remains one of her most popular works. It is notable for portraying a dissenting perspective on sexuality in Africa and especially LGBT in Africa.
Whereas one popular idea on the continent is that homosexuality is alien to Africa, and an intrusion of the ideas of Western culture into a pure, inherently heterosexual “African” culture, Aidoo portrays the main character of Killjoy as indulging in lesbian fantasies of her own and maintaining sympathetic relationships with lesbian characters.
Many of Aidoo’s other protagonists are also women who defy the stereotypical women’s roles of their time, as in her play Anowa. Her novel Changes won the 1992 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Africa). She was also an accomplished poet—her collection Someone Talking to Sometime won the Nelson Mandela Prize for Poetry in 1987 —and the author of several children’s books.
Aidoo contributed the piece “To be a Woman” to the 1984 anthology Sisterhood Is Global: The International Women’s Movement Anthology, edited by Robin Morgan. Her story “Two Sisters” appears in the 1992 anthology Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby.
In 2000, Aidoo established the Mbaasem Foundation, a non-governmental organization based in Ghana with a mission “to support the development and sustainability of African women writers and their artistic output”, which she ran together with her daughter Kinna Likimani and a board of management.
Aidoo was the editor of the 2006 anthology African Love Stories. In 2012, she published Diplomatic Pounds & Other Stories, a compilation of short stories, and another which is a collection of essays by renowned writers in Ghana, Africa, and the African Diaspora.
Awards & Recognition
Aidoo received many awards, including the 1992 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Africa) for her novel Changes.
In 2012, the volume Essays in Honor of Ama Ata Aidoo at 70 was published, edited by Anne V. Adams, with contributors including Atukwei Okai, Margaret Busby, Maryse Condé, Micere Mugo, Toyin Falola, Biodun Jeyifo, Kofi Anyidoho, Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, Naana Banyiwa Horne, Nana Wilson-Tagoe, Carole Boyce Davies, Emmanuel Akyeampong, James Gibbs, Vincent O. Odamtten, Jane Bryce, Esi Sutherland-Addy, Femi Osofisan, Kwesi Yankah, Abena Busia, Yaba Badoe, Ivor Agyeman-Duah, Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Kinna Likimani, and others.
Aidoo was the subject of a 2014 documentary film, The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo, made by Yaba Badoe.
The Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize, awarded by the Women’s Caucus of the African Studies Association for an outstanding book published by a woman that prioritizes African women’s experiences, is named in honor of Ama Ata Aidoo and Margaret C. Snyder, who was the founding director of UNIFEM.
Launched in March 2017, the Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing (Aidoo Centre), under the auspices of the Kojo Yankah School of Communications Studies at the African University College of Communications in Adabraka, Accra, was named in her honor—the first centre of its kind in West Africa, with Nii Ayikwei Parkes as its director.
Mbari Press short story prize
1988: Fulbright Scholarship
1992: Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Africa) for Changes
2014: The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo film by Yaba Badoe
2017: Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing launched in Accra
Not too much is known about Ama Ata Aidoo’s personal life as we couldn’t find reports of it on the internet. However, it is known that the late writer was a Christian and had a female child identified as Kinna Likimani.
As of the time of Ama Ata Aidoo’s passing, she was believed to have a net worth of approximately $10 million.
On the 31st of May, 2023, Ama Ata Aidoo passed away at the age of 81. According to her family, she peacefully departed from her home after a brief illness.
Frequently Asked Questions
When was Ama Ata Aidoo born?
She was born on the 23rd of March 1942.
Who is Ama Ata Aidoo’s child?
The late writer had a daughter whose name is Kinna Likimani. She is an editor and a literary critic. She also serves as a Director at Odekro, a Parliamentary monitoring organization based in Ghana.
How old was Ama Ata Aidoo when she died?
The notable writer was 81 years old when she passed away.
Who is Ama Ata Aidoo’s husband?
Ama Ata Aidoo was a married woman, but as of the tune of putting down this article, Wonder9ja, and its editorial team doesn’t know much about her husband as there are no reports about her personal life online.
What killed Ama Ata Aidoo?
According to a report from her family, she peacefully departed from her home after a short illness.
When did Ama Ata Aidoo die?
Ama Ata Aidoo died on the 31st of May 2023.