Prepare to be enthralled by the fascinating complexities of Christina Ama Ata Aidoo, a literary maven who has left an indelible mark on the African literary scene. As a lover and consumer of classical African literature, it’s almost embarrassing to admit that I had not yet delved into Aidoo’s captivating body of work. However, her recent passing on May 31, 2023, has brought her brilliance to the forefront of my attention.
Though I have only scratched the surface of Aidoo’s literary repertoire, what I have discovered so far is enough to convince me that she is a study in contradiction. Her traditionalist perspective on African community, culture, and identity juxtaposed with her fearless progressiveness creates a captivating dynamic that demands exploration.
Let’s examine her works. In her debut novel, “Our Sister Killjoy” (1977), Aidoo challenges conventional views on African sexuality by presenting homosexuality as an inherent part of the culture rather than a Western import. Moreover, her novel “Changes: A Love Story” (1991) delves into the life of a polyandrous character—a concept that defies the norms of West African society even today. Aidoo’s ability to embrace and write about such unconventional themes in Africa’s cultural context is nothing short of groundbreaking.
What truly impresses me about Aidoo is her unwavering commitment to practice what she preaches. While many literate African writers have sought greener pastures abroad, Aidoo remained steadfast in her dedication to her homeland. She served as the Ghanaian Secretary of Education from 1982 to 1983, resigning only when she realized her dream of making education free and fair wasn’t attainable at the time. She then pursued a career as an English professor, first at the University of Ghana and later at the University of Cape Coast, where she eventually became a professor. She even lived in Zimbabwe in 1983, actively involved in education and writing as a curriculum developer for the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education. Despite accolades, including a Fulbright Scholarship and teaching positions in the United States, Aidoo continuously found her way back to Africa, demonstrating her unwavering commitment to her homeland.
It is worth noting that Aidoo holds the distinction of being the first published African woman playwright with her work “The Dilemma of a Ghost” in 1965. Her literary endeavors have garnered international recognition, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book Africa in 1992 for “Changes: A Love Story” and the 1987 Nelson Mandela Prize for Poetry for her collection of poems, “Someone Talking to Sometime” (1985). Until her passing, she actively operated the Mbaasem Foundation, a Ghanaian-based non-governmental organization she co-founded with her daughter and esteemed African literary critic, Kinna Likimani.
While we may not agree with all of Aidoo’s philosophies and principles, there is no denying the impact she made during her lifetime. Her unwavering dedication to her ideologies and her unyielding determination speak volumes about her strong will and unwavering spirit. Let us bid farewell to Ama Ata Aidoo, a literary trailblazer who left an indelible mark on the world.