Ama Ata Aidoo – Christina Aidoo.
Ama Ata Aidoo, née Christina Ama Aidoo (born 23 March 1940) is a Ghanaian author, poet, playwright and academic. She was the Minister of Education under the Jerry Rawlings administration. In 2000, she established the Mbaasem Foundation to promote and support the work of African women writers. Some other sources by Megan Behrent Brown University and Africa Who’s Who 3rd edition stated that she was born on 31 March 1940.
Aidoo was born in 23 March 1940 in Saltpond in the Central Region of Ghana. She was raised in a Fante royal household, the daughter of Nana Yaw Fama, chief of Abeadzi Kyiakor, and Maame Abasema. She grew up “under the oppression of resurgent neocolonialism as a result of British aggression during the late 19th century” that was taking place in her homeland. Her grandfather was murdered by neocolonialists, and the tragedy, in turn, brought her father’s attention to the importance of educating the children and families of the village on the history and events of the era. This led him to open up the first school in their village and influenced Aidoo to attend the Wesley Girls Highschool where she first decided she wanted to be a writer.
Aidoo attended Wesley Girls’ Senior High School in Cape Coast, from 1961 to 1964. After high school, she enrolled at the University of Ghana, Legon where she obtained a degree in Bachelor of Arts in English and also wrote her first play, The Dilemma of a Ghost, in 1964. The play was published by Longman the following year, making Aidoo the first published African woman dramatist.
Ama was appointed Minister of Education under the Provisional National Defence Council in 1982. She resigned after 18 months, realising that she would be unable to achieve her aim of making education in Ghana freely accessible to all. She has portrayed 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 has criticized those literate Africans who profess to love their country but are seduced away by the benefits of the developed world. She believes in a distinct African identity, which she views from a female perspective.
She worked in the United States, where she held a fellowship in creative writing at Stanford University, California. She also served as a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, and as a lecturer in English at the University of Cape Coast, eventually rising there to the position of professor.
She has also spent a great deal of time teaching and living abroad for months at a time. She has lived in the United States, Britain, Germany and Zimbabwe.
In London in 1986, she delivered the Walter Rodney Visions of Africa lecture organised by the support group for Bogle-L’Ouverture publishing house. Aidoo taught various English courses at Hamilton College in Clinton New York, in the early mid-1990s. She is currently a visiting professor in the Africana Studies Department at Brown University.
Aidoo is a patron of the Etisalat Prize for Literature (alongside Dele Olojede, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, Margaret Busby, Sarah Ladipo Manyika and Zakes Mda), created in 2013 as a platform for African writers of debut books of fiction. She obtained a Fulbright Scholarship award in 1988 and Mbari press short story prize.
She is the subject of a 2014 documentary film, The Art of Ama- ata Aidoo, made by Yaba Badoe. Her plays include: ”The Dilemma of a Ghost” produced in Legon in 1964, Pittsburgh in 1988, Accra, Longman in 1965 and in New York Macmillan in 1971. ”Anowa” another play written by her was produced in London in 1991 and New York Humanities Press in 1970
Aidoo’s 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. Many of Aidoo’s protagonists are 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 is also an accomplished poet—her collection Someone Talking to Sometime won the Nelson Mandela Prize for Poetry in 1987—and has written several children’s books.
She contributed the piece “To be a woman” to the 1984 anthology Sisterhood Is Global: The International Women’s Movement Anthology, edited by Robin Morgan.
In 2000 she founded 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 runs together with her daughter Kinna Likimani and a board of management.
Aidoo is the editor of the 2006 anthology African Love Stories.
AWARDS AND RECOGNITION
Awards Aidoo has received include the 1992 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Africa) for her novel Changes.
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 honour of Ama Ata Aidoo and of 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 (AUCC) in Adabraka, Accra, was named in her honour — the first centre of its kind in West Africa, with Nii Ayikwei Parkes as its director.
The Dilemma of a Ghost (play), Longman, 1965.
Anowa (a play based on a Ghanaian legend), Longman, 1970.
Our Sister Killjoy: or Reflections from a Black-eyed Squint, Longman, 1977.
Someone Talking to Sometime (a poetry collection), Harare: College Press, 1986.
The Eagle and the Chickens and Other Stories (for children), Tana Press, 1986.
Birds and Other Poems, Harare: College Press, 1987.
An Angry Letter in January (poems), Dangaroo Press, 1992.
Changes: a Love Story (novel), The Feminist Press, 1993.
No Sweetness Here: A Collection of Short Stories, The Feminist Press, 1995.
The Girl Who Can and Other Stories, Heinemann African Writers Series, 1997.
Diplomatic Pounds & Other Stories, Ayebia Clarke Publishing, 2012.
African Love Stories: An Anthology, African Love Stories: An Anthology, Ayebia Clarke Publishing, 2006.