Ama-Aidoo with Prof Wole Soyinka

Ama Ata Aidoo

Ama your death killed our joy, our empowering sister. Yet our mouths that eat with salt and pepper will continue to echo your words.

On 31 May 2023, Earth said goodbye to one of Ghana’s greatest female writers. Ama Ata Aidoo was a fire that flickered her flames in word. She wrote about what it meant to be Ghanaian under the weight of the aftermath of colonialism, and being in a country where The Beautiful One’s Are Not Yet Born. The power of a woman and her right to have her own voice. An activist through the pen and through action, Ama Ata Aidoo is a Ghanaian legend that will live on through her words.

Christina Ama Aidoo ( She later got rid of the Christina, it wasn’t befitting for a Pan African to have a Western name) was born in March 1942, the exact date is debated. She had a twin brother Kwame Ata. In the Fante language Ata is a name given to twins. She was born into a royal household, the daughter of Nana Yaa Famu chief of Abeadzi Kyiakor and Maame Abasema. Unfortunately, her Grandfather was murdered by neo-colonialists. Which inspired her father to want to educate the village children as well as adults on history and it’s significance. He created the first village school. His passion for education and influence led Ama Ata Aidoo to go to Wesley girls secondary school. One of Ghana’s most prestigious secondary schools.

Ama Ata Aidoo then went to the University of Legon in 1961 and studied English, she graduated with a BA. She wrote her first play, The Dilemma Of A Ghost in 1964, this play was published by Longman the following year. Which made Ama Ata Aidoo the first female African dramatist published. After graduating Ama held a fellowship at Standford University for Creative Writing. In 1969 she returned to Ghana to teach English at the University of Ghana, whilst there she was a research fellow at the Institute Of African Studies. She also became a lecturer at the University of Cape Coast, where she later became a professor.

Ama Ata Aidoo was the Minister of Education under the PNDC government in 1982. She resigned after 18 months knowing she couldn’t achieve her vision of making education in Ghana accessible for all and because she had an urge to write. In 1983, she moved to Zimbabwe to continue her work in education and was a curriculum developer for the Zimbabwean Ministry of Education. From 2004 to 2011 she was a visiting professor in the Africana Studies Department at Brown University. She was the chair of the Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival from its inception in 2011. Ama Ata Aidoo was a patron of the Etisalat Prize for Literature. 

All these stellar accomplishments couldn’t compare to the woman herself, and the woman, the Ghanaian female goddess of the word breathed life into the Ghanaian literary landscape. Ama was a proud Pan-African and a feminist, she was an anchor and a voice for all women. Not just in words but in her person. Vibrant, vivacious, clever, determined, brave, and bold. Ama was Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal woman in human form. 

Plays like Anowa delved into mental health and a woman’s right to self-determination and healing. As well as colonialism’s impact on the African woman. To Our Sister Kill Joy her first novel, is a journey of the exploration of self in different lands and the impact of racism as well as the hope for better things. This novel is also sympathetic to the LGBT plight. Making her one of the few African authors of her time to be progressive to all people. In Anowa she was sympathetic towards Kofi Ako not being the traditional stereotypical masculine man and portrayed his empathy as a good thing. All of her writing explores self-determination and the right for one to be themselves inspired by social dogma. She was a Liberal through and through.

Ama left us with a dilemma of how to mourn a ghost, how do you mourn a vibrant love-personified firehouse of a woman and writer deeply, and also celebrate her work that will live on. Ghanaian president Nana Akuffo Addo celebrated her as “an outstanding writer, advocate for women’s cause, the cause of Africans and the progressive people around the world”. He gave her a state funeral. Ama Ata Aidoo was one of my biggest writing inspirations and heroines, I’m saddened I never got to meet her. She leaves behind a daughter Kinna Likimani.

Ama continue to have your presence in our lives through your words and your person. May your human body rest well, you deserve it because it lived well. 

Some of Ata Aidoo’s books for reading pleasure:

Changes: A Love Story

The Dilemma Of A Ghost

No Sweetness here and other stories

Our Sister Kill Joy

Girl who can

Diplomatic Pounds And Other Stories


Author: Akosua Darko


London, UK