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Biography of Ama ATa AIDOO

Ghana > Literature : Ama ATa AIDOO

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Born on 23/03/1942 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Ama Ata Aidoo (b. March 23, 1942),is a Ghanaian playwright and former Education Minister of Ghana who has depicted the role of African woman in modern society. Aidoo has noted that the idea of nationalism has been used by new leaders as a tool to keep people oppressed. Aidoo has criticized those educated Africans who profess to love their country but are lured away by the material benefits of the developed word. She believes in a distinct African identity, which she sees from a female perspective.

  Ama Ata Aidoo was born in a small village in Ghana's central Fanti-speaking region in 1942.
    * Her father had opened the first school in the village and was a strong influence on her.
    * At the age of 15 she decided that she wanted to be a writer and within just four years, she'd achieved that ambition.
    * She was encouraged to enter a newspaper short story competition and only discovered that she'd won it when she saw her name in the newspaper.

    "at the age of 15, a teacher had asked me what I wanted to do for a career, and without knowing why or even how I replied that I wanted to be a poet. About four years later I won a short story competition but learned about it only when I opened the newspaper that had organised it, and saw the story had been published on its centre pages and realised the name of the author of that story in print was mine. I believe these moments were crucial for me because ... I had articulated a dream... it was a major affirmation for me as a writer, to see my name in print."
Ama Ata Aidoo

    * Aidoo studied literature at the University of Ghana and became a university lecturer.
    * Whilst there she produced her first play in 1964. The Dilemma of a Ghost The play is about a Ghanaian man, Ato, who returns home from the United States with an African-American wife. He has not consulted his family about the marriage, and the conflict between the two cultures is played out through the characters' interactions. The man himself is torn between his Ghanaian past and his acquired American ideals. The tension between the communal and traditional Ghanaian value system and the individualistic American culture are further played out in the confrontations between Ato's mother and his American wife. At the end of the play, mother and wife reconcile, and thus the dilemma of the title is solved.

Her second play, Anowa (1970), is more masterful. It is an adaptation of a traditional Ghanaian folk-tale. Anowa, the heroine, rejects all suitors provided by her parents and marries for love instead. Her husband, Kofi Ako, proves to have a weak moral character. He responds to her criticism of his decision to keep slaves by treating her cruelly and amassing even more slaves. The parallels between the slaves and wives are developed, and eventually, Anowa realizes that she is truly alone, having rejected her family and her husband, and unable to bear a child. The play ends with Kofi's attempts to banish her and assail her character being thwarted, although her victory is Pyrrhic. She publicly asserts that he is impotent. Kofi Ako commits suicide, unable to bear the shame of having his reputation destroyed. Anowa also kills herself, as she is unable to find meaning in her barren and lonely existence. 

* In January 1982 she was appointed Minister of Education. As Minister, Aidoo wanted to make education in Ghana freely accessible to all - but after 18 months when she realised that she couldn't achieve her aims she resigned.
    * She moved to Zimbabwe to become a full-time writer and also lived and taught in the USA.
    * She has won many literary awards including the 1992 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (Africa) for Changes.
the Nelson Mandela Prize for Poetry in 1987 for Someone Talking to Sometime


Last update : 07/17/2009

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