Aidoo, Ama Ata
Ama Ata Aidoo 1942-
(Full name Christina Ama Ata Aidoo) Ghanaian novelist, poet, playwright, short story writer, and children's writer.
The following entry presents an overview of Aidoo's career through 2002.
Best known for her short stories, novels, and plays, Aidoo embraces the devices of the African oral tradition in all aspects of her writing. Her works reflect a feminist and nationalist consciousness that links Africa's social problems and the decline of its oral tradition to past European colonial rule and Africa's present neocolonial economy. Different aspects of Africa's social history, particularly the legacy of slavery, are often the subject of Aidoo's work, and one of her more controversial recurring motifs is the exploration of the marginalization of educated African women. In such works as Anowa (1970) and Our Sister Killjoy: or, Reflections from a Black-Eyed Squint (1977), Aidoo presents female protagonists who defy the stereotype of the submissive African woman despite strong male opposition and abuse.
Aidoo was born in 1942 to Chief Yaw Fama of the Fanti town of Abeadzi Kyiakor, Ghana, and his wife, Maame Abba Abasema. This royal environment exposed Aidoo to traditional African lore and literature which would strongly influence her later writing. She attended Western schools, completing her primary education at the Wesley Girls' School in Cape Coast and graduating with honors in English from the University of Ghana at Legon in 1964. She was later appointed as a Junior Research Fellow of the Advanced Creative Writing Program at Stanford University. While attending the University of Ghana, Aidoo participated in the school of drama and several playwriting workshops. The publication of her plays The Dilemma of a Ghost (1965) and Anowa later established Aidoo's reputation as a rising African playwright. After the success of Anowa, Aidoo turned her attention to different genres of writing, publishing novels, essays, poems, reviews, and, most notably, collections of her short stories. Her collection No Sweetness Here (1970) integrates African oral techniques with Western literary conventions and was warmly received by critics in Africa and abroad. Aidoo published her first novel, Our Sister Killjoy, in 1977 and did not release another work for eight years. This was due in part to the oppressive political regime in Ghana at the time, which was characterized by military brutality and the indiscriminate incarceration of Ghana's intelligentsia. Aidoo taught English literature at the University of Ghana, Cape Coast, from 1970 to 1983, and was a consulting professor in the ethnic studies program of the Phelps-Stokes Fund from 1974 to 1975. In 1982 Aidoo was appointed Minister of Education in Ghana under the government of J. J. Rawlings. Due to pressure from the increasingly conservative government, Aidoo was forced to resign the position and subsequently left the country in 1983. She settled in Zimbabwe, later serving as the chair of the Zimbabwe Women Writers Group. Aidoo is also the founder and executive director of Mbaasem, a foundation that supports African American women writers and their work. She received a short story prize in a Mbari Press competition and another from Black Orpheus for the title story in No Sweetness Here. In 1992 she was awarded the Commonwealth Writers Prize for African Literature for Changes: A Love Story (1991). She has travelled extensively in Africa, the United States, and Europe, and has presented lectures at universities throughout Africa and North America.
Aidoo first attracted critical and popular attention for her dramatic works which examine the gender, racial, and intergenerational conflicts that African men and women are forced to confront in the modern world. The Dilemma of a Ghost focuses on a young Ghanaian, Ato Yawson, who was educated in America. He returns home with his African American wife, Eulalie Rush, whom he has married without forewarning his family. The cultural conflict, conveyed through the design of the family house, images of food, and distinctive levels of language, is exacerbated by the couple's decision not to have children. When Eulalie shows no sign of becoming pregnant, Ato's family assumes that she is barren. The core of the problem, however, lies in Ato's inability to bring about any meaningful reconciliation between his ancestral and adopted cultures. Only the strength and wisdom of Ato's mother helps to assuage a bitter confrontation between Ato's Western individual values and his family's traditionally communal African beliefs. In Anowa, a beautiful, talented young woman named Anowa rejects all the suitors her parents approve and instead marries Kofi Ako, the man of her choice. Anowa and Kofi quickly discover that they have almost nothing in common, and Kofi tries to drive Anowa away. Refusing to be divorced without reason, Anowa repudiates Kofi's insinuations of barrenness—a common accusation leveled against African women in childless marriages—and instead blames Kofi for the failure of their marriage. Completely deflated by this threat to his manhood, Kofi kills himself, and Anowa also commits suicide, overwhelmed by the futility of attempting to find meaning in life. Anowa is set during a significant period in the colonial history of Africa's Gold Coast, and the ethical implications of colonialism and slavery heighten the dramatic action, revealing conflicting attitudes toward such issues as wealth and slavery.
No Sweetness Here, Aidoo's first published work of prose, collects eleven short stories that emphasize Aidoo's concern with feminist issues. The stories focus on a range of diverse and often tragic topics such as sexism, degradation, feminine adolescence, and humanist values. “Everything Counts” and “For Whom Things Did Not Change” are primarily centered around the impact of modernization on both rural and urban women, while “The Late Bud” explores budding girlhood and the identity crisis emanating from growing up female in a sexist environment. Aidoo's novel Our Sister Killjoy blends traditional prose with poetry and passages written in the epistolary form. Consisting of a prologue and three chapters, the novel records the impressions of an African girl named Sissie during a visit to present-day Germany and England, noting the colonial histories of both countries and their governments' role as oppressor to African peoples. Sissie is the Ghanaian representative of an international group of young volunteer workers and, as she witnesses the economic exploitation of and racism against African immigrants in Europe, she loudly encourages her countrymen to return to Africa. In 1985 the College Press of Zimbabwe published Someone Talking to Sometime, the first collection of Aidoo's poetry, which contains forty-four original poems. Aidoo employs a conversational style in the poems to lend humor to the essentially tragic nature of existence, particularly in such poems as “From the Only Speech that Was Not Delivered at the Rally” and “Of Love and Commitment.” Her second volume of poetry, An Angry Letter in January and Other Poems (1992), examines similar thematic material, while also presenting a series of existential questions regarding self-identity, exile, place, and belonging. In Changes: A Love Story, Aidoo explores the limited options retained by modern African women in regard to love and marriage. The female protagonist, Esi, an ambitious Ghanian careerwoman, flouts convention by divorcing her husband and becoming the second wife of a more progressive man. Through Esi's struggle for self-respect within a relationship, Aidoo examines such issues as career choices, marital rape, monogamy, polygamy, and the toll of compromise in marriage. Her second short story collection, The Girl Who Can and Other Stories (1997), is written from a child's perspective, featuring young female protagonists who struggle to define themselves within patriarchal African society. In stories like “She-Who-Would-Be-King” and “Male-ing Names in the Sun,” Aidoo subverts the traditional portrayal of adolescent African females, creating characters who question and challenge the role of the African woman in the twenty-first century. Aidoo has also written several children's works, including The Eagle and the Chickens and Other Stories (1986) and Birds and Other Poems (1987), a book of poetry for children.
Aidoo's work has garnered generally positive reviews throughout her career. The Dilemma of a Ghost has attracted high praise from critics, despite some negative comments about the play's structural weaknesses and Aidoo's attempts at blending the African oral tradition with Western literary elements. Several reviewers have lauded the stories in No Sweetness Here, noting Aidoo's skill at creating sympathetic characters as well as the social relevance of her prose. Fawzia Afzal-Khan has commented that, in No Sweetness Here, “Aidoo uses her dramatist's skills to create an immediacy of environment and experience into which the reader is drawn, almost as participant rather than observer.” While many scholars have agreed on Aidoo's prominence as a social critic, some commentators have expressed uneasiness over what they describe as Aidoo's pointed attacks against the Western world in Our Sister Killjoy. However, other critics have rejected this assessment, favorably comparing the novel to James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time and Jean Toomer's Cane. Gay Wilentz has argued that Our Sister Killjoy deserves considerable praise for presenting “a rarely heard viewpoint in literature in English—that of the African woman exile.”
Dilemma of a Ghost (play) 1965
Anowa (play) 1970
No Sweetness Here (short stories) 1970
Our Sister Killjoy: or, Reflections from a Black-Eyed Squint (novel) 1977
Someone Talking to Sometime (poetry) 1985
The Eagle and the Chickens and Other Stories [illustrations by Paul Wade] (juvenilia) 1986
Birds and Other Poems (juvenilia and poetry) 1987
Changes: A Love Story (novel) 1991
An Angry Letter in January and Other Poems (poetry) 1992
The Girl Who Can and Other Stories (short stories) 1997
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SOURCE: Eko, Ebele. “Beyond the Myth of Confrontation: A Comparative Study of African and African-American Female Protagonists.” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 17, no. 4 (October 1986): 139-52.
[In the following essay, Eko examines how Aidoo subverts the traditional role of the African female protagonist in Anowa, comparing the play to several works from African and African American authors.]
Times have changed since the sixties, and a new breed of black women writers in Africa and America are giving creative birth to a new breed of female protagonists. One of their deep concerns, a point which Hoyt Fuller has stressed,1 is to help destroy degrading images and myths and recreate for black women images that liberate and build up self-identity. The myth of black mother-daughter confrontation, to which a whole volume of a scholarly journal has been devoted,2 is one such.
I intend to focus on the creative process of myth destruction and recreation in two works each from Africa and America. By comparing and contrasting the confrontation of daughters and their mothers and “totems” of that tradition—the reactions, the revelation of deep-seated mother-daughter resemblances, and the challenge the daughters become to those around them—I hope to prove a number of things. First that, far from being selfish, spoiled, and pugnacious, these...
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SOURCE: Nwankwo, Chimalum. “The Feminist Impulse and Social Realism in Ama Ata Aidoo's No Sweetness Here and Our Sister Killjoy.” In Ngambika: Studies of Women in African Literature, edited by Carole Boyce Davies and Anne Adams Graves, pp. 151-59. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, Inc., 1986.
[In the following essay, Nwankwo explores how the reality of African feminism is portrayed in No Sweetness Here and Our Sister Killjoy.]
Feminism challenges, with justification, the secondary status of women in all societies. Some such challenges in African literature are suspiciously autobiographical and irredeemably subjective. Many are successful in presenting the universal dilemma of heterosexual relationships. Whether we are in the moribund traditional world of Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta or wrapped in the earthy reminiscences of Charity Waciuma, certain crucial questions remain unavoidable. How does one translate individual subjective experience into legitimate questions for social redress? How does the African woman accommodate that individual experience within the stream of history—rapidly changing cultural and socioeconomic circumstances and consequently altered social relations?
If those questions are avoided, we can only read feminist literature in which suffering characters win only our empathy without our sympathy because there are no logical matrices to...
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SOURCE: Owusu, Kofi. “Canons under Siege: Blackness, Femaleness, and Ama Ata Aidoo's Our Sister Killjoy.” Callaloo 13, no. 2 (spring 1990): 341-63.
[In the following essay, Owusu considers the impact of racial and gender issues on Our Sister Killjoy, commenting that the novel “seems to defy easy categorization, and one soon gets the impression that it defines itself by this very fact.”]
[T]here is a Eurocentric view that the movement for women's liberation is not indigenous to Asia or Africa, but has been a purely West European and North American phenomenon, and that where movements for women's emancipation … have arisen in the Third World, they have been merely imitative of Western models.
—Kumari Jayawardena, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World
The process of correcting the portrayal of Black women has involved both the creative writer and the scholar-critic, and oftentimes one person serves both functions.
—Stephen Henderson, Introduction to Black Women Writers (1950-80)
THE CREATOR CREATED WO/MAN, DIDN'T S/HE?
Definitions [belong] to the definers—not the defined.
—Toni Morrison, Beloved
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SOURCE: Wilentz, Gay. “The Politics of Exile: Ama Ata Aidoo's Our Sister Killjoy.” Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 15, no. 1 (winter 1991): 159-74.
[In the following essay, Wilentz asserts that Our Sister Killjoy deconstructs traditional “prescribed theories of exile” and presents an original narrative from the perspective of a female African expatriate.]
The term “politics of exile” calls to mind those sufferers who must leave their homeland for political reasons. But there is another aspect of the politics associated with exile—that of the so-called third world colonial who seeks the benefits and opportunities in a European country, perceived as culturally superior, thus avoiding the socio-political situation at home. Ama Ata Aidoo's Our Sister Killjoy: or, Reflections from a Black-Eyed Squint (1979) is a relentless attack on the notions of exile as relief from the societal constraints of national development and freedom to live in a cultural environment suitable for creativity. In this work, Aidoo questions certain prescribed theories of exile including the reasons for exile—particularly among African men. The novel exposes a rarely heard viewpoint in literature in English—that of the African woman exile; Aidoo's protagonist Sissie, as the “eye” of her people, is a sojourner in the “civilized” world of the colonizers. Our Sister Killjoy,...
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SOURCE: Wilentz, Gay. “Ama Ata Aidoo: The Dilemma of a Ghost.” In Binding Cultures: Black Women Writers in Africa and the Diaspora, pp. 38-57. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.
[In the following essay, Wilentz evaluates the “dilemma” of traditional African versus Western values that Aidoo constructs in The Dilemma of a Ghost.]
If you educate a man, you educate an individual. If you educate a woman, you educate a nation.1
Ama Ata Aidoo, like her sister Ghanian Efua Sutherland, has been extremely active in promoting her culture's traditions through her writing and productions, and her post as Ghana's Minister of Culture and Education. She is one of Africa's most outspoken writers, especially in regard to the position of women, and is author to literary works in all genres: poetry, short stories, plays, and a novel, Our Sister Killjoy (1979). All of Aidoo's work conveys her social vision, her commitment to write oraliterature, and her belief in reworking the traditions to create a more integrated African society; but unlike Sutherland's soft touch, her criticisms of the unfair use of traditional values and imported Western culture are extremely harsh. Her outspokenness toward male dominance in African countries has earned her a rather antagonistic response from some male critics;...
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SOURCE: Aidoo, Ama Ata, Rosemary Marangoly George, and Helen Scott. “A New Tail to an Old Tale: An Interview with Ama Ata Aidoo.” Novel: A Forum on Fiction 26, no. 3 (spring 1993): 297-308.
[In the following interview, originally conducted in Fall 1991, Aidoo discusses her role as an African writer, African immigration to the West, and elements of feminism in her work.]
Ama Ata Aidoo is an internationally recognized and acclaimed literary and intellectual figure. She has published many plays, novels, collections of short stories and poems since her first play The Dilemma of a Ghost in 19651. She was born in 1945, into the family of a chief in the Fanti town of Abeadzi Kyiakor, in the central region of Ghana (then called by its colonial name “The Gold Coast”), and grew up in the royal household. Her privileged origins are reflected in her education and career: she attended the Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast, and was at the University of Ghana in Legon from 1961-1964. During this time Aidoo worked in the University's school of drama and writers' workshop and produced her first two plays and a collection of short stories. She has continued to write professionally, and also has pursued a career teaching, reading and lecturing at universities in West and East Africa and the United States. At times she has also held influential educational...
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SOURCE: Aidoo, Ama Ata, and Anuradha Dingwaney Needham. “An Interview with Ama Ata Aidoo.” Massachusetts Review 36, no. 1 (spring 1995): 123-33.
[In the following interview, originally conducted on January 29, 1992, Aidoo discusses her feminist perspective, African nationalism, and the portrayal of African immigrants in her work.]
Ama Ata Aidoo has occupied, and continues to occupy, many roles: former Minister of Education for Ghana, University Teacher, Critic, Writer of poetry, plays, novels and short stories. The brutal legacy of European colonialism in Africa, a gender politics that marginalizes women and locks them into unacceptable traditional roles, the persistence of neo-colonialism evident especially in the economic control of Africa by the very powers that colonized Africa are some of the concerns that dominate her work. They reappear in this interview, which was conducted at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, on January 29, 1992. Aidoo spent 1991-1992 at Hamilton College as a Visiting Professor in the Department of English.
[Dingwaney]: Now I guess what I would like us to begin talking about is: When you don't have a narrative that only speaks about how women are oppressed by men then that is not seen as a narrative which could come from a feminist. Clearly your work does not do that because you are so concerned with issues of nationalism, neo-colonialism,...
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SOURCE: Gardner, Susan. “Culture Clashes.” Women's Review of Books 12, no. 2 (November 1994): 22-3.
[In the following review, Gardner compares and contrasts Changes: A Love Story with Nigerian author Buchi Emecheta's Kehinde.]
Ama Ata Aidoo and Buchi Emecheta, despite their different nationalities (Aidoo is from Ghana, Emecheta from Nigeria) have much in common. Emecheta, born in 1946, divorced, has four living children; Aidoo, a few years older, widowed with one daughter. Both are among the first African women writers to publish in English and gain a worldwide audience. Each lives in exile—Emecheta in London and Aidoo in Zimbabwe. Emecheta's exile is personal and professional: she has stated that she could never publish her books—numbering, in US editions, more than a dozen novels, one autobiography and several children's stories—in Nigeria, not only because of technological difficulties but because men dominate the Nigerian literary establishment.
For Aidoo—playwright, poet and novelist, justly famed for a dazzling, syncretic, innovative style—exile is more straightforwardly political. After leading a coup d'état in 1979, Flight Lieutenant J. J. Rawlings ceded power to an elected civilian head of state, but in December 1981 he seized power again by force in a “revolution” which has since become an autocracy. Aidoo was appointed Ghana's Secretary for Education...
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SOURCE: MacKenzie, Clayton G. “The Discourse of Sweetness in Ama Ata Aidoo's No Sweetness Here.” Studies in Short Fiction 32, no. 2 (spring 1995): 161-70.
[In the following essay, MacKenzie examines Aidoo's generally optimistic portrayal of postcolonial African culture in No Sweetness Here, arguing that the collection employs “a narrative technique of closely juxtaposed binary oppositions that attest to glimmers of benignity in the midst of social decay.”]
In “For Whom Things Did Not Change,” the second story in Ama Ata Aidoo's collection No Sweetness Here, a young man recounts the tale of a bad yam. In it he tells how Nanaa cuts a slice of a large yam; it is rotten. Then she cuts another slice, and another, and another. All are rotten. Finally, she gouges out the head of the yam. It is brown and soft. Rotten. The young man, Kobina, draws from the childhood parable a significance for the corrupt social context of modern Ghana:
What was it that ate it up so completely? And yet, here I go again, old yam has to rot in order that new yam can grow. Where is the earth? Who is going to do the planting? Certainly not us—too full with drink, eyes clouded in smoke and heads full of women.
The image of soil and regrowth, here stated emphatically and then rejected as implausible,...
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SOURCE: Samantrai, Ranu. “Caught at the Confluence of History: Ama Ata Aidoo's Necessary Nationalism.” Research in African Literatures 26, no. 2 (summer 1995): 140-57.
[In the following essay, Samantrai asserts that African nationalism is a major recurring motif in Aidoo's oeuvre, noting that works such as Our Sister Killjoy function as “example[s] of how a non-racialist, non-foundational African identity might lead to Pan-African solidarity.”]
Is it possible to generate Pan-Africanist nationalism from a non-racialist impulse? This is the strategy for Pan-African solidarity advocated by Anthony Appiah in his recent work on African politics and philosophy. But the progressive articulation of such solidarity depends upon its break with its old basis, which Appiah terms “racialized Negro nationalism” (180). A new Pan-Africanism might be based on the contingencies and urgencies of a shared situation, but it must necessarily remain aware that “being African is, for its bearers, one among other salient modes of being, all of which have to be constantly fought for and rethought” (177).
Ama Ata Aidoo's acclaimed novel, Our Sister Killjoy: or, Reflections from a Black-Eyed Squint, provides an example of how a non-racialist, non-foundational African identity might lead to Pan-African solidarity. There appears to...
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SOURCE: Innes, C. L. “Conspicuous Consumption: Corruption and the Body Politic in the Writing of Ayi Kewi Armah and Ama Ata Aidoo.” In Essays on African Writing, edited by Abdulrazak Gurnah, pp. 1-18. Nigeria: Heinemann Educational Publishers, 1995.
[In the following essay, Innes discusses how political and cultural corruption relates to and influences the work of Aidoo and Ghanaian author Ayi Kewi Armah.]
At the close of A Man of the People, Chinua Achebe's novel depicting the rise and fall of a corrupt Nigerian politician, the narrator, Odili, declares:
For I do honestly believe that in the fat-dripping, gummy, eat-and-let-eat regime just ended—a regime which inspired the common saying that a man could only be sure of what he had put away safely in his gut or, in language evermore suited to the times: ‘you chop, me self I chop, palaver finish’; a regime in which you saw a fellow cursed in the morning for stealing a blind man's stick and later in the evening saw him again mounting the altar of the new shrine in the presence of all the people to whisper into the ear of the chief celebrant—in such a regime, I say, you died a good death if your life had inspired someone to come forward and shoot your murderer in the chest—without asking to be paid.1
This passage encapsulates themes and metaphors that are...
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SOURCE: Afzal-Khan, Fawzia. Review of No Sweetness Here and Other Stories, by Ama Ata Aidoo. World Literature Today 71, no. 1 (winter 1997): 205-06.
[In the following review, Afzal-Khan comments on No Sweetness Here on the occasion of its reprinting over twenty-five years after its original publication.]
The republishing of this 1970 collection of short stories by one of Africa's leading ladies of letters is indeed a welcome event for all readers of African fiction, but especially for teachers eager to include works by African women in a variety of courses. As Ketu Katrak points out in a readable and informative afterword, “One key manifestation of rendering women writers insignificant is to render them out of print, as in Aidoo's case.” Well, thanks to the Feminist Press, at least that obstacle to the recognition of women's literary work is being overcome to some degree. We can, in Aidoo's case, now turn to the task of assessing the merits of this particular collection, for as she herself has written in an essay quoted in the afterword, “The only important question is the critical recognition of a book's existence—not necessarily approbation.”
Certainly there is much to recognize and approve of in the stories collected in No Sweetness Here. Aidoo uses her dramatist's skills to create an immediacy of environment and experience into which the reader is...
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SOURCE: Smith, Pamela J. Olubunmi. Review of The Girl Who Can and Other Stories, by Ama Ata Aidoo. World Literature Today 74, no. 2 (spring 2000): 342.
[In the following review, Smith praises the stories in The Girl Who Can and Other Stories, complimenting Aidoo's examination of gender disparity in postcolonial Africa.]
Writing in several genres—drama, the novel, poetry, the short story—Ama Ata Aidoo, Ghana's leading female writer, has secured a place for herself in the Ghanaian literary canon. Here is a voice to be reckoned with, not only as a modern African creative writer but also as an African female/feminist writer. Indeed, her voice, like that of fellow Ghanaian author Ayi Kwei Armah, could be described as the voice of conscience and protest, exposing the social ills of postindependence Ghanaian society, especially in its treatment of women. As she has done in her many essays, she chronicles women's struggles for intellectual, educational, professional independence and recognition in her creative works.
Aptly titled and written in a “women who could and did” fashion, her second book of short fiction, The Girl Who Can and Other Stories, contains eleven short stories ranging from the anecdotal to the political and the philosophical. Seven of these had been previously published in magazines and journals between 1974 and 1995. The stories, mostly...
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SOURCE: Karavanta, Assimina. “Rethinking the Specter: Ama Ata Aidoo's Anowa.” Mosaic 34, no. 4 (December 2001): 107-22.
[In the following essay, Karavanta discusses Anowa from a global perspective, commenting that the play's most significant attribute is “the multiple voices that it engages in addressing the problematic of colonialism and the beginning of the flow of white capital in the region of the Gold Coast.”]
Il faut parler du fantôme, voire au fantôme et avec lui, des lors qu'aucune éthique, aucune politique, revolutionnaire ou non, ne paraît possible et pensable et juste, qui ne reconnaisse à son principe le respect sur ces autres qui ne sont plus ou pur ces autres qui ne sont pas encore là, présentement vivants, qu'ils soient déjà morts ou qu'ils ne soient pas encore nés.
Jacques Derrida, Spectres de Marx
The contemporary momentum is informed by the celebrated prophecy of a “global coming” that ensures peace in the world—with a few “necessary” interruptions of violence against the barbarian “others,” who must be “corrected” for not abiding by the requirements of the global market. The paradox of global peace relying upon regional wars (the events in Kosovo and Bosnia constitute one of the most recent examples) demands that we, both the people living in...
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SOURCE: Olaussen, Maria. “‘About Lovers in Accra’—Urban Intimacy in Ama Ata Aidoo's Changes: A Love Story.” Research in African Literatures 33, no. 2 (summer 2002): 61-80.
[In the following essay, Olaussen argues that Changes: A Love Story presents an “utopian” vision of the deconstruction of traditional sexual roles in postcolonial Africa.]
“What does a woman want?” If Sigmund Freud did not have an answer to that question, that is not the case with the mothers in Ama Ata Aidoo's novel Changes: A Love Story. The fact that their daughter is an educated woman in a lucrative job with great prospects for her future has a profound influence on how these rural women see her “real” needs and desires. But their advice and admonitions are based on the reality of women's lives in a male dominated world. According to the mothers, an educated woman expects “something better,” she deserves “something better,” but even in a society where women's financial independence is both expected and highly valued, the necessity for a woman to have a husband is never questioned. What she deserves is a “better” husband, certainly a husband of her own—in any case she deserves to be the first wife. According to the mothers, what a woman wants is to be desired by her husband and defined exclusively in relation to that desire.
Aidoo's novel is both a...
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SOURCE: Olaogun, Modupe. “Slavery and Etiological Discourse in the Writing of Ama Ata Aidoo, Bessie Head, and Buchi Emecheta.” Research in African Literatures 33, no. 2 (summer 2002): 172-93.
[In the following essay, Olaogun explores the recurring theme of slavery in Anowa, Bessie Head's Maru, and Buchi Emecheta's The Slave Girl, asserting that the slavery motif “suggests a deeper structural analysis of historical time than a focus on the immediate independence period as a privileged moment through which the postindependence morass in Africa could be understood.”]
Slavery—human bondage for labor exploitation in domestic or market contexts—is a theme that has been explored by the Ghanaian Ama Ata Aidoo, the Nigerian Buchi Emecheta, and the South African-born, Botswana-naturalized Bessie Head—all women writers whose writing is contemporaneous. In addition to their interest in chattel slavery, the writers look at states that share some characteristics with slavery, notably oppression across class, ethnicity and gender, servility, and dependency. An effect of the explorations is a consideration of the metaphorical status of slavery.1
Appearing at a time when the tendency in African literature was toward a close reflection of the current social and political developments, these writers' depictions of slavery are remarkable. In quantitative terms,...
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Adelugba, Dapo. “Language and Drama: Ama Ata Aidoo.” In African Literature Today: Drama in Africa, edited by Eldred Durosimi Jones, pp. 72-84. London and New York: Heinemann/Africana Publishing Company, 1976.
Adelugba provides an overview of Aidoo's two major dramatic works, Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa.
Aidoo, Ama Ata, and Mary Mackay. “Ama Ata Aidoo.” Belles Lettres 9, no. 1 (fall 1993): 32-5.
Aidoo discusses her past, her literary influences, and her body of work.
Berrian, Brenda F. “African Women as Seen in the Works of Flora Nwapa and Ama Ata Aidoo.” CLA Journal 25, no. 3 (March 1982): 331-39.
Berrian explores the plight of African women as portrayed through the works of Flora Nwapa and Aidoo's No Sweetness Here.
Elder, Arlene. “Ama Ata Aidoo and the Oral Tradition: A Paradox of Form and Substance.” In Women in African Literature Today, edited by Eldred Durosimi Jones, Eustace Palmer, and Marjorie Jones, pp. 109-18. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1987.
Elder examines the influence of the African oral tradition on Aidoo's work.
Additional coverage of Aidoo's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: African Writers; Black Literature Criticism...
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