Discovering Ama Ata Aidoo was like a revelation. For many years I had been oblivious of the great female writers that came from Africa. Of course I knew about the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Waris Dirie, Aminatta Forna and NoViolet Bulawayo, but the older authors from generations ago didn’t even register on my radar. Shame on me! Well thanks to my partner in crime (@mundia_s) I read one of Ama Ata Aidoo’s short stories, Changes, and I was in love!
The story itself was very engaging; a young mother going through divorce and deciding to enter a polygamous relationship…scandalous! But what I enjoyed most was the complexity with which she wrote her characters. Women from various walks of life, connected together in diverse ways, dealing with cultural tradition and expectations in the best way they knew how. It was a story that reflected my culture and my world view. Not necessarily the polygamy aspect but as a young African woman dealing with the sometimes difficult situation of respecting your culture but also wanting to be true to yourself in the way you live your life. In other words, I could relate.
For us Africans, literature must serve a purpose: to expose, embarrass, and fight corruption and authoritarianism. It is understandable why the African artist is utilitarian. – Ama Ata Aidoo
By coincidence, as I was thinking of writing this post I came across an article about a film on the life of Ama Ata Aidoo by Yaba Badoe. ‘The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo’ touches on a range of issues, from her influences to her dedication to writing. But what came across quite powerfully for me was her fearlessness. She was not afraid to tackle issues of slavery, patriarchy and marriage amongst other things, as she herself says in the film, she writes about whatever is on her mind. One of her main concerns, which she reflects on in many of her stories, is the relationship between the Diaspora and those still living on the continent. It was clear from the film that she feels that this is a relationship that needs healing due to the effects of slavery and as such she is ready to address it multiple times in her writing. Women are the central characters in most of her work and the female characters she creates are complex and well rounded, these are characters that will resonate with women right across the world.
Finding out about Ama has been eye opening for me. I look at her and see someone I can relate to, someone who is passionate about her people and her craft, who’s work speaks to my reality and I am excited about reading more of her work.
Have you read any of her books? Tell us about it in the comments!