Ama Ata Aidoo Introduction

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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.

Biographical Information

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.

Major Works

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...

(The entire section is 1,467 words.)