The Ghanaian writer and academic Ama Ata Aidoo, whose work focused on the modern African woman, has died aged 81.
Ata Aidoo, whose fans included Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, rejected the idea of what she described as a “western perception that the African female is a downtrodden wretch”, said the BBC.
The author’s work included the play The Dilemma of a Ghost, in which a Ghanaian student returning home brings his African American wife into the traditional culture and the extended family that he now finds restrictive.
Her first novel was the semi-autobiographical Our Sister Killjoy, published in 1977 and about a Ghanaian girl travelling through Europe. In 1992 Ata Aidoo won the Commonwealth writers’ prize for best African book for her novel Changes: A Love Story, about a career-oriented woman as she divorces her first husband and navigates a new relationship.
As well as being a writer and university professor, Ata Aidoo also served as Ghana’s education minister in the early 1980s; she resigned when she could not make education free.
Tributes have been paid to Ata Aidoo on social media. Writer Mona Eltahawy said on Twitter: “So sad to hear that author Ama Ata Aidoo has passed. An inspiration to feminists everywhere, especially us African feminists.”
Zimbabwean author and activist Tsitsi Dangarembga said on Twitter: “We have lost a granary of wisdom & knowledge.”
Ngozi Adichie chose Ata Aidoo’s short story No Sweetness Here, from a collection of the same name, to read on the Guardian books short story podcast in 2018.
Speaking on the podcast, Ngozi Adichie said she had chosen the story because it was “layered and beautiful and complex but also because I think Ama Ata Aidoo is a writer who should be more widely read than she is”.
Ngozi Adichie also described Ata Aidoo as very funny, and a writer with “wonderful wit”.
“I think really that one of the reasons that she isn’t as well known as she should be in my opinion is because she’s female,” said Ngozi Adichie, “and a lot of her work is very much about women and what it means to be female at a particular place and time.
“Not only does she write about women, but she writes about women truthfully, and sometimes when you write about a subject of that sort in a way that’s true, it makes people uncomfortable and when you have people who are the tastemakers of literature, and if they can’t absorb what you’re talking about, it then makes it difficult for you to be well known.”