Ama Ata Aidoo: Biographical Introduction

Megan Behrent, Brown University '97

Ama Ata Aidoo has since the publication of her first play in 1964 been an important and vocal figure in the struggle for Ghanaian national liberation and self-determination in the context of colonialism and neo-colonialism, as well as the broader pan-Africanist struggles against imperialism and racism generally; at the same time she has been an outspoken proponent for women's liberation in the national and international contexts and an avid critic of the corruption and hypocrisy of the national bourgeoisie in post-independence Ghana. She has likewise made important contributions to both the development of African literature and literary criticism both as a writer and as a scholar.

Born in 1940, in the central region of Ghana, then called by its colonial name, the Gold Coast; Aidoo was the daughter of a chief in the town of Abeadzi Kyiakor and grew up in the royal household. She attended the Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast and, subsequently, the University of Ghana at Legon from 1961 to 1964, where she was an active participant in the school of drama and the writer's workshop and produced her first play The Dilemma of a Ghost in 1964. Between 1964 and 1966 Aidoo was a Junior Research Fellow at the Institute of African Studies at the University, which most likely influenced her writing by strengthening her commitment to the use of African oral traditions in her work. She was also undoubtedly influenced by the pan-Africanist and socialist ideas that were prevalent in the 1950s and 60s in the period leading up to and immediately after the independence of Ghana in 1957.

Like many of her contemporaries, she was greatly affected by the disillusionment that followed independence, as it became apparent that the national liberation struggle had failed to live up to that which had been expected of it. Since her first play was published in 1965, Aidoo has written one other play, two novels, a collection of short stories and two collections of poetry as well as numerous essays on African literature and the status of women in African society. As well as being a writer and a critic, she has also pursued a career in education, teaching and lecturing in various parts of Africa as well as the United States. She has also been involved in Ghanaian politics and was in the early 1980s the Minister of Education in Ghana under Jerry Rawlings government.

Aidoo's writing reflects the breadth of her career and has certainly been influenced by the historical events which have shaped her life and her country. Aidoo's intervention in many of the debates surrounding African literature and particularly African women's literature has been extremely important, particularly in her insistence that the struggle for women's liberation must not be subordinated to nationalist or anti-imperialist struggles, but rather must be an intrinsic part of these.

[These materials have been adapted from an honors thesis written by Megan Behrent, Brown University, 1997]

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Last Modified: 14 March, 2002