Ama Ata Aidoo: Creativity and Humanity in One

by Duchess Magazine

Ama Ata Aidoo was born on March 23, 1942, and died on May 31, 2023. She was a politician, playwright, academic, and novelist from Ghana. Between 1982 and 1983, she served as the PNDC government of Jerry Rawlings’ Ghana’s Secretary for Education.

Aidoo became the first published female African dramatist in 1965 when her first play, The Dilemma of a Ghost, was released. She won the 1992 Commonwealth Writers Prize for fiction with the book Changes. She founded the Mbaasem Foundation in Accra in 2000 to assist and promote the writing of African women.

Aidoo began attending Cape Coast’s Wesley Girls’ Senior High School in 1957. She enrolled in the University of Ghana, Legon, in 1961 after graduating from high school. There, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and in 1964, she authored her first play, The Dilemma of a Ghost. The following year, Longman published the play, making Aidoo the first published female African playwright.

Prior to moving back to Ghana in 1969 to start teaching English at the University of Ghana, Aidoo completed a fellowship in creative writing at Stanford University in California after receiving her degree. She worked there as a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies and at the University of Cape Coast, where she eventually attained the rank of professor, lecturing in English.

In 1982, the Provisional National Defence Council appointed Aidoo to the position of Minister of Education.

Awards and Recognitions

Awarded numerous times, Aidoo won the Mbari Club Prize in 1962 for her short story “No Sweetness Here” and the 1992 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Africa) for her novel Changes.

The collection Essays in Honour of Ama Ata Aidoo at 70, edited by Anne V. Adams, was released in 2012. Contributors included Atukwei Okai, Margaret Busby, Maryse Condé, Micere Mugo, Toyin Falola, and Biodun Jeyifo.

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo, a 2014 documentary film by Yaba Badoe, was about Aidoo.

The Women’s Caucus of the African Studies Association established the Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize in memory of Ama Ata Aidoo and Margaret C. Snyder, the first director of UNIFEM, for a remarkable book written by a woman and prioritising the experiences of African women.

In her honour, the Kojo Yankah School of Communications Studies at the African University College of Communications (AUCC) in Adabraka, Accra, launched the Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing (Aidoo Centre) in March 2017. It is the first institution of its kind in West Africa, and Nii Ayikwei Parkes serves as its director.

Every moment Ama Ata Aidoo spent is a treasure to be kept and cherished.

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