Ama Ata Aidoo

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Ama Ata Aidoo
BornChristina Ama Aidoo
(1942-03-23) 23 March 1942 (age 80)
Saltpond, Gold Coast (now Ghana)
OccupationAuthor, playwright, professor
GenreDrama, fiction, poetry
SubjectComparative literature, postcolonial literature
Notable worksThe Dilemma of a Ghost (1965)
Anowa (1970)
Our Sister Killjoy (1977)
Changes (1991)
Notable awardsCommonwealth Writers' Prize

Ama Ata Aidoo, née Christina Ama Aidoo (born 23 March 1942) is a Ghanaian author, poet, playwright and academic.[1] She was the Minister of Education under the Jerry Rawlings administration. In 2000, she established the Mbaasem Foundation to promote and support the work of African women writers.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Aidoo was born on 23 March 1942 in Saltpond in the Central Region of Ghana. Some sources including Megan Behrent, Brown University, and Africa Who's Who have stated that she was born on 31 March 1940.[4][5] She had a twin brother, Kwame Ata.[6][7]

She was raised in a Fante royal household, the daughter of Nana Yaw Fama, chief of Abeadzi Kyiakor, and Maame Abasema.[8] She grew up at a time of resurgent British neocolonialism that was taking place in her homeland. Her grandfather was murdered by neocolonialists, which brought her father's attention to the importance of educating the children and families of the village on the history and events of the era. This led him to open up the first school in their village and influenced Aidoo to attend Wesley Girls' High School, where she first decided she wanted to be a writer.[9]


Aidoo attended Wesley Girls' Senior High School in Cape Coast,[10] 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.[11] The play was published by Longman the following year, making Aidoo the first published African woman dramatist.[12]


Ama was appointed Minister of Education under the Provisional National Defence Council 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.[13] 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 distinct African identity, which she views from a female perspective.[14]

She worked in the United States, where she held a fellowship in creative writing at Stanford University, California.[15] She also served as a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, and as a lecturer in English at the University of Cape Coast, eventually rising there to the position of professor.[16]

She has also spent a great deal of time teaching and living abroad for months at a time. She has lived in the United States, Britain, Germany and Zimbabwe.[citation needed]

In London in 1986, she delivered the Walter Rodney Visions of Africa lecture organised by the support group for Bogle-L'Ouverture publishing house.[17] Aidoo taught various English courses at Hamilton College in Clinton New York, in the early mid-1990s. She is currently a visiting professor in the Africana Studies Department at Brown University.[citation needed]

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.[18] She obtained a Fulbright Scholarship award in 1988 and Mbari press short story prize.[15]


She is the subject of a 2014 documentary film, The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo, made by Yaba Badoe.[19][20][21]


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 in London in 1991.[15]

Her works of fiction particularly deal with the tension between Western and African world views. Her first novel, Our Sister Killjoy, was published in 1977 and remains one of her most popular works. Many of Aidoo's protagonists are 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[22]—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.[23] Her story "Two Sisters" appears in the 1992 anthology Daughters of Africa, edited by Margaret Busby.[24]

In 2000 she 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",[2] which she runs together with her daughter Kinna Likimani[25] and a board of management.[26]

Aidoo is the editor of the 2006 anthology African Love Stories.[27] 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.[28]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Aidoo has received several awards including the 1992 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book (Africa) for her novel Changes.

The Aidoo-Snyder book prize, awarded by the Women's Caucus of the African Studies Association for an outstanding book published by a woman that prioritizes African women's experiences, is named in honour of Ama Ata Aidoo and of Margaret C. Snyder, who was the founding director of UNIFEM.[29]

Launched in March 2017, the Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing (Aidoo Centre), under the auspices of the Kojo Yankah School of Communications Studies at the African University College of Communications (AUCC) in Adabraka, Accra, was named in her honour[30]—the first centre of its kind in West Africa, with Nii Ayikwei Parkes as its director.[31][32]

Selected works[edit]

  • The Dilemma of a Ghost (play), Accra: Longman, 1965. New York: Macmillan, 1971.
  • Anowa (a play based on a Ghanaian legend), London: Longman, 1970. New York: Humanities Press, 1970.
  • No Sweetness Here: A Collection of Short Stories, Longman, 1970.
  • Our Sister Killjoy: or Reflections from a Black-eyed Squint (novel), Longman, 1977.
  • Someone Talking to Sometime (a poetry collection), Harare: College Press, 1986.
  • The Eagle and the Chickens and Other Stories (for children), Tana Press, 1986.
  • Birds and Other Poems, Harare: College Press, 1987.
  • An Angry Letter in January (poems), Dangaroo Press, 1992.
  • Changes: a Love Story (novel), The Women's Press, 1991.
  • The Girl Who Can and Other Stories, Heinemann African Writers Series, 1997.
  • Diplomatic Pounds & Other Stories, Ayebia Clarke Publishing, 2012.

As editor[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Aditya Misra, "Death in Surprise: Gender and Power Dynamics in Ama Ata Aidoo's Anowa". Journal of Drama Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2012, pp. 81–91.
  • Anne V. Adams (ed.), Essays in Honour of Ama Ata Aidoo at 70: A Reader in African Cultural Studies. Ayebia Clarke Publishing, 2012.
  • Ada Uzoamaka Azodo and G. Wilentz, Emerging Perspectives on Ama Ata Aidoo, Africa Research & Publications, 1999.
  • Vincent O. Odamtten, The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo: Polylectics and Reading Against Neocolonialism. University Press of Florida, 1994.
  • Esther Pujolràs-Noguer, An African (Auto)biography. Ama Ata Aidoo's Literary Quest: Strangeness, nation and tradition, Lap Lambert Academic Publishing, 2012.
  • Nafeesah Allen, "Negotiating with the Diaspora: an Interview with Ama Ata Aidoo", Scholar & Feminist Online, 2009.


  1. ^ "Ama Ata Aidoo Biography".
  2. ^ a b "Ama Ata Aidoo | Ghanaian writer". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Welcome to Mbaasem". Mbaasem Foundation. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  4. ^ Behrent, Megan. "Ama Ata Aidoo: Biographical Introduction". Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  5. ^ Uwechue, Raph (1996). Africa Who's Who. London: Africa Books Limited. pp. 80–81. ISBN 9780798303446.
  6. ^ Odamtten, Vincent Okpoti (26 April 2000). "'For Her Own (Works') Quality' The Poetry of Ama Ata Aidoo". Matatu. 21–22 (1): 209–216. doi:10.1163/18757421-90000320.
  7. ^ Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame Jr (6 September 2016). "Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo's action is about principles, not sheer human foibles". GhanaWeb. Retrieved 19 December 2021.
  8. ^ "AMA ATA AIDOO (1942–)", Postcolonial African Writers, Routledge, 1998.
  9. ^ "Her Story". BBC World Service Service. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  10. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Ama Ata Aidoo". Books and Writers (Authors Calendar). Finland.
  11. ^ "Ama Ata Aidoo", Encyclopædia Britannica.
  12. ^ Naana Banyiwa Horne, "Aidoo, Ama Ata", Who's Who in Contemporary Women's Writing, 2001, Routledge.
  13. ^ "Ama Ata Aidoo", BBC World Service.
  14. ^ "African Success: Biography of Ama Ata AIDOO". African Success. 17 July 2009. Archived from the original on 24 May 2018. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  15. ^ a b c "(Christina) Ama Ata Aidoo Biography". Retrieved 2019-05-09.
  16. ^ Jagne, Siga Fatima; Pushpa Naidu Parekh, eds. (1998). "Ama Ata Aidoo (1942–)". Postcolonial African Writers: A Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Routledge. p. 32. ISBN 9781136593970.
  17. ^ "Friends of Bogle", (London Metropolitan Archives), Aim 25, Archives in London and the M25 area.
  18. ^ Patrons, Etisalat Prize for Literature.
  19. ^ "The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo - a film by Yaba Badoe", official website.
  20. ^ Beti Ellerson, "Yaba Badoe talks about the documentary film project 'The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo'", African Women in Cinema, December 2013.
  21. ^ Shakira Chambas and Sionne Neely, "The Art of AMA ATA AIDOO: Documentary Film Launch", African Women's Development Fund, 26 September 2014.
  22. ^ Ama Ata Aidoo biography, Heinemann/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  23. ^ "Table of Contents: Sisterhood is global". Anchor Press/Doubleday. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  24. ^ Ama Ata Aidoo, "Two Sisters", in Margaret Busby (ed.), Daughters of Africa, London: Jonathan Cape, 1992, pp. 532–542.
  25. ^ " Ghana international Book fair - Kinna Likimani", YouTube, 2010.
  26. ^ "Management and Board" Archived 25 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Mbaasem Foundation.
  27. ^ "Yaba Badoe's African Love Story, 'The Rival'", Buried in Print, 16 November 2011.
  28. ^ "Ama Ata Aidoo At 70 - New African Magazine". March 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  29. ^ "Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize By-Laws" Archived 2016-06-28 at the Wayback Machine, ASA Women's Caucus.
  30. ^ "AUCC Launches Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing", Modern Ghana, 15 March 2017.
  31. ^ "Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing opens in Accra, Ghana", James Murua Blog, 22 March 2017.
  32. ^ Kwamina Tandoh/Winifred Zuur, "Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing inaugurated", Ghana News Agency, 16 March 2017.

External links[edit]