Africa-Press – Liberia. Ama Ata Aidoo, the iconic Ghanaian writer whose classics The Dilemma of a Ghost and Changes were taught to children in West African schools for decades, has died aged 81.
The death of the playwright and poet who was famous for her feminist ideals was announced on Wednesday in a short statement by her family.
The cause of death was an undisclosed illness.
“The family … with deep sorrow but in the hope of the resurrection, informs the general public that our beloved relative and writer passed away in the early hours of this morning Wednesday 31st May 2023, after a short illness,” read the statement signed by Kwamena Essandoh Aidoo, a representative of the family.
Born in 1942 in a village in central Ghana, Aidoo began writing at 15. She ended up studying literature at the University of Ghana, where she lectured for years.
Her first work, The Dilemma of a Ghost, a play, was published in 1965, making her the first African woman to publish a play. She went on to become one of the continent’s best-known writers, inspiring a generation of younger authors, artists and feminists.
A domestic satire, The Dilemma of a Ghost concerns a Ghanaian student returning from education abroad with his Black American wife, and her struggle coming to terms with her cultural past in her new African home. The play “is both structurally and thematically related to the traditional dilemma tale. By focusing on the questions and problems of appropriate moral behavior, the dilemma tale invites the audience to adjudicate between conflicting possibilities of action.
The drama centers on the problems of childbearing, infidelity, and exogamy that arise when Ato Yawson, the protagonist, returns to Ghana with an Afro-American wife, Eulalie Rush. The consequences of this unannounced marriage symbolize both the private and the public dilemmas of the postcolonial subject and her or his society. …The ideological and stereotypical assumptions of both Eulalie and her new in-laws give rise to the seemingly irreconcilable encounter between the West (the United States) and Africa (Ghana).
Mpalive-Hangson Msiska notes that while the play “focuses on the dilemma of a man caught between two histories and two cultures, Aidoo is also concerned with the predicament of women who are not so much caught between cultures and histories as no longer having a place in either world. This double non-belonging, as opposed to split allegiance, might be spoken of as the dilemma of the daughter figure, as opposed to son and mother figures.
Aidoo, who was Ghana’s education minister from 1982 to 1983, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book for Changes, a story about an educated woman navigating the complexities of a polygamous marriage.