Celebrating Five Decades of Ama Ata Aidoo
“I occupy the space of a ‘Black African Happy Feminist’ because writers like Ama Ata Aidoo came before me. Her storytelling nurtured mine. Her worldview enlarged and validated mine.” - Chimamanda Adichie
Today in the literary sphere marks 45 years since Ghanaian author, playwright and academic Ama Ata Aidoo came on the literary scene with her exceptional debut, Our Sister KillJoy, published as Reflections of a Black-eyed Squint in 1977. She has since then become a literary force both on the continent and abroad and a trailblazer for contemporary African feminist writers, shaping a new dimension in the ways African women are portrayed in literature.
Today we celebrate the impact Our Sister KillJoy has sparked over the years in shaping critical discussions on feminism and colonialism in the 20th century and its ripple effects on feminist African literature in our time.
Our Sister KillJoy chronicles the experiences of Sissie, a European Ghanaian immigrant. Written in traditional prose and verse, Aidoo illuminates the realities of African immigrants in her characters from varying and often contradictory perspectives.
The protagonist's political consciousness and sharp critique of the neo-colonial realities she encounters give a clear insight into the many racial issues in Europe and how it has beaten and bent its victims, African immigrants, into a caricature of themselves. Through Sissie, Aidoo was able to use this novel as a tool to drive discourse and analyse the long-lasting effects of colonialism on Africa and Africans in the diaspora and how that has created an Elite upper class that does not specifically care about the problems at home on the continent and would instead lick the white man's boots.
The way the protagonist often breaks into verse in her lamentations gives the book an edge.
And of course Aidoo sharply etches feminism into the fabric of this work, an ever-prevailing theme that shapes the protagonists' relationship with the male characters in the book and through female characters who are constantly kicking against stereotypical patriarchal norms and marginalisation.
All in all, beyond this very political description of this work is an exciting story of one woman's diaspora journey with bubbling, interesting characters.
Overall, the book is an experience and a striking debut that genuinely set an outstanding precedent for the many years of Ama Ata Aidoo that we have come to enjoy to this day.
Aidoo 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. The play was published by Longman the following year, making Aidoo the first published African woman dramatist.
Aidoo served as 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.
She served as a fellow at Stanford University, California, teaching creative writing. She has 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, where she later became a professor. She has taught various English courses at the Hamilton College in New York and served as a visiting professor for some time at Brown University.
Her works include, for plays; The Dilemma of a Ghost(1964), Anowa(1971). For fiction; Her first Novel, Our Sister Killjoy also known as Reflections from a Blackeyed Squint(1977), No Sweetness Here: a collection of short stories(1970), The Eagle and the Chickens and Other Stories for children(1986), Changes: a love story(1991), The Girl Who Can and Other Stories(1997), Diplomatic Pounds & Other Stories(2012). For poetry; Someone Talking to Sometime(1986), Birds and Other Poems(1987), and An Angry Letter in January(1992).