Former Education Minister and renowned author of ‘The Dilemma of a Ghost’, Ama Ata Aidoo has passed on.
According to her family, the poet, playwright and academic born on March 23, 1942, died peacefully at home on Wednesday.
In a press statement, the family announced, “with deep sorrow but in the hope of the resurrection, informs the general public that our beloved relative and writer passed away in the early hours of this morning Wednesday, May 31, 2023, after a short illness.”
The family head, Kwamena Essandoh Aidoo added, “Funeral arrangements would be announced in due course.”
The family requests of the general public privacy in its difficult moments of grief.
Who was Prof Ama Ata Aidoo?
With a career spanning more than five decades, she has received international recognition as one of the most prominent African writers of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Ama Ata 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 the degree of 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.
After graduating, Aidoo held a fellowship in creative writing at Stanford University in California, before returning to Ghana in 1969 to teach English at the University of Ghana.
She served as a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies and as a lecturer in English at the University of Cape Coast, where she eventually rose to the position of professor.
Aidoo was appointed Minister of Education under the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) 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 distinctly African identity, which she views from a female perspective.
In 1983, she moved to live in Zimbabwe, where she continued her work in education, including as a curriculum developer for the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education, as well as writing.
In London, England, in 1986, she delivered the Walter Rodney Visions of Africa lecture organised by the support group for Bogle-L’Ouverture publishing house.
Aidoo received a Fulbright Scholarship award in 1988, and she was writer-in-residence at the University of Richmond, Virginia, in 1989, and taught various English courses at Hamilton College in Clinton New York, in the early mid-1990s.
She was for seven years, until 2011, a visiting professor in the Africana Studies Department at Brown University.
Aidoo was 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.
Aidoo’s plays include The Dilemma of a Ghost, produced at Legon in 1964 (first published 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 worldviews.
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.
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 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.
Her story “Two Sisters” appears in the 1992 anthology Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby.
In 2000, Aidoo 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.
In 2012, she launched 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.
Aidoo has received several awards, including the 1992 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Africa) for her novel Changes.