100 Writers Celebrate Ama Ata Aidoo’s Life and Work
100 Writers Celebrate Ama Ata Aidoo’s Life and Work

It has been almost a month since Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo passed on, but the pain of the loss still feels fresh. She died on May 31, 2023 at the age of 81. Prof. Aidoo was a pioneering cultural figure. Her work and her activism shaped African storytelling and debates about culture and politics in profound ways. This compilation of tributes captures the many ways that her writing, friendships, mentoring, and passion for literature have touched the lives of many.

Born in 1942 and raised in Ghana’s Central Region, Prof. Aidoo discovered her passion for writing during her secondary school years. This passion propelled her to achieve many significant milestones, including the distinction of being the first African woman dramatist to have her work published, pursuing an academic career, publishing 11 books, and holding public office. [Read our full obituary here.]

To the incredible 100 contributors, we extend our deepest appreciation for this beautiful send-off. Thanks to your contributions, the compilation encompasses a diverse range of voices. It includes Wole Soyinka’s succinct yet beautiful note, Ellah Wakatama’s poignant epistle, and heartfelt remarks from young writers like Chukwuebuka Ibeh, Ber Anena, and Poetra Asantewa, as well as seasoned veterans such as Nuruddin Farah and Okey Ndibe. The compilation also features contributions from literary scholars like Prof. Simon Gikandi and media executive Mo Abudu. Sihle-Isipho Nontshokweni and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers contributed beautiful poetry. Rashidah Ismaili’s deeply moving reflection is a full essay. For individuals like Martin Egblewogbe, who worked closely with Prof. Aidoo, her passing carries profound ramifications. For others like Uwem Akpan and Chimamanda Adichie, Aidoo’s life and work left their mark in profound ways, though from afar. Many shared personal anecdotes of their encounters with Aidoo, while others reflected on the brilliance and impact of her work on their own creative journeys.

Thanks again to all 100 contributors. These many voices raised in chorus is a powerful celebration of a beloved writer and now, cherished ancestor.

And thanks to our Assistant Editor Kuhelika Ghosh for handling the huge task of collating and editing.

We invite all of you to join us in commemorating Prof. Aidoo’s extraordinary life and legacy. Please feel free to share your own tributes in the comment section below.

🕊️ May Prof. Aidoo’s Soul Rest in Peace 🕊️

Dr. Ainehi Edoro
Editor, Brittle Paper

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Photo credit: Wikipedia

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Farewell Messages from 100 Writers to Ama Ata Aidoo (1942-2023)

(By Alphabetical Order)

Leila Aboulela

Ama Ata Aidoo… just saying her name is a sweetness. For African writers in the diaspora, she was our mother and grandmother back home, established and forthright, settled and strong, beloved and knowing more than we could ever know. Hers were the pioneering, glamorous generation and she was the queen. Her passing is a loss not only to Africa but also to the English language and to the feminist movement. She leaves behind a brilliant body of work, classics that are taught and read all over the world. She also leaves behind a remarkable daughter, Kinna Likimani, a powerful outspoken presence in the African literary community and a worthy heir to her mother’s legacy.

Mo Abudu

Today, we mourn the loss of a literary pioneer, Ama Ata Aidoo, whose words and wisdom have left an indelible mark on the literary landscape. While I never had the privilege of knowing her personally, I hold a deep respect for her work and the impact it has had on countless lives.

Aidoo was more than a writer; she was a visionary who fearlessly explored the complexities of gender, culture, and identity through her stories. Her writing possessed a unique ability to transcend borders, bringing forth narratives that resonated with readers across the globe. With each word, she beautifully wove together tales that challenged societal norms and gave voice to the marginalized.

Her novels, plays, and poetry were not just artistic expressions but powerful tools for social change. Aidoo fearlessly confronted issues such as patriarchy, colonialism, and the struggle for independence. She fearlessly confronted the challenges faced by women, highlighting their strength, resilience, and unwavering spirit.

Through her works, Aidoo provided a platform for unheard voices, particularly those of African women. She shattered stereotypes, dismantled prejudices, and championed equality and empowerment. Her commitment to the liberation of women and her advocacy for social justice serve as an inspiration to all who continue to fight for a more equitable world.

Aidoo’s legacy extends beyond her literary accomplishments. As a teacher, she nurtured young minds and inspired future generations of writers and thinkers. Her mentorship and guidance have undoubtedly shaped the literary landscape, with her students carrying on her legacy through their own remarkable works.

As we bid farewell to Ama Ata Aidoo, we honor her contributions to literature and her unwavering dedication to social change. Her words will continue to ignite our hearts and minds, reminding us of the power of storytelling to challenge, heal, and transform. Her spirit will forever live on through the pages of her books and the hearts of those who were touched by her wisdom.

Rest in power, Ama Ata Aidoo. Your words will continue to guide and inspire generations to come.

Sulaiman Addonia

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Ama Ata Aidoo. She was an inspiring writer with a sharp and incredible mind. I love this quote from her: “Humans, not places, make memories.” May she rest in poetry and peace.

Leye Adenle

Sometimes we are reminded that we have shared this earth with living legends. Rest in peace, Ama Ata Aidoo; you have done your bit for all of us.

Tomilola Adeyemo

A legend. A literary icon. Ama Ata Aidoo’s works were part of the few prescribed books I genuinely enjoyed reading as a Literature student in secondary school and eventually as a Dramatic Arts undergraduate at the Obafemi Awolowo University. Others I read to pass, hers I read and loved. May her soul find rest.

Chimamanda Adichie

She wrote brilliant and insightful books. She was deeply wise. She had integrity. Her heart was large and kind. A great great great writer is gone. Rest well, Aunty Ama. And thank you.

Faith Adiele

I would probably not be a writer if not for Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo’s fearless example. When I was a young girl growing up as the only African in my school, town and family, it was she and Buchi Emecheta who sustained me. They showed me what was possible as an African woman and what was necessary as a writer. I finally got to meet her at the Pan-African Literary Conference in Ghana fifteen years ago and thank her in person. I had imagined her to be a giant and was surprised to find a petite, humble, soft-spoken woman who embraced me like an auntie and let me sit by her side all evening. I am forever honored and indebted. Let us celebrate your life, Prof. Aidoo, as you go well to the ancestors.

Bisi Adjapon

I am still trying to process the thought that our beloved Ama Ata Aidoo has transitioned into eternity. We have lost an illustrious pioneer of the African literally landscape. Ama empowered women through her works, writing with a fearlessness I admired and wanted to emulate. Her novel, Changes, remains a perennial favorite I read over and over again.

When I was a student in Wesley Girls’ High School, Ama’s plays, specifically The Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa, ignited my passion for the theater. We were proud to perform her plays because she was an “Old Girl” of the school. That early passion would lead me to become a theater director in Virginia.

We called you Auntie Ama, because you were a mother figure and auntie to every writer you met. Even through illness, you did your utmost to embrace and support us all. As I once said, you were worthy of my knee. Thank you, Auntie Ama, for supporting my novel, The Teller of Secrets, and for blazing a trail for us to follow. I will forever remain indebted to you for your encouragement and compassion. You will live always in our hearts. Rest in power and light, fearless and beloved Auntie Ama.

Anote Ajeluorou

Ama Ata Aidoo is one of Africa’s literary mothers who has just joined her ancestors. Of course, in Africa there are no female ancestors, but her place is assured in the world of African letters like Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa and Molara Ogundipe who precede her in the journey to ancestry. Indeed, she ranks in the category of priestesses of communal shrines that Africa is so blessed with. And as a priestess of the clan, she held her divination bell and rang it loud and clear to wake up the consciousness of the African man and woman to the place of women in society as irreplaceable gems. She was easily the midwife who used her writing to deliver African women from ignorance and elevated them to positions of respectability. An African priestess is gone, but her gongs will still ring across seven rivers and seven hills. Who shall bear the seeds of the clan’s prophecy to the future?

Uwem Akpan

Dear Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo, rest in perfect peace! I knew a girl in my childhood who nicknamed herself after you. Though we didn’t always understand the full impact of your works then, this was a girl nobody could push around. She was nice and she was smart. Nobody could mess with her. Though girls weren’t allowed to play soccer then, she would sneak out in the moonlight to play night soccer with us…I was fortunate to have read your works. I never met you–though I would’ve freaked out in such an awesome presence–your works deeply touched me and my generation. I join your family, friends, the great country of Ghana and the angels of heaven in celebrating your life.

Mohammed Naseehu Ali

As a boy growing up in Ghana Professor Ama Ata Aidoo was my literary idol. She would later become a mentor and a great supporter of my writing after we first met in person at a retreat in Ghana 25 years ago. She was brilliant, unapologetic, and knew exactly what she wanted to achieve with her writing. She was also kind, funny and always willing and ready to give support when it was needed.

Though gone physically you will continue to be with us in spirit. The light you shone will continue to illuminate and give meaning to the lives of generations to come. Damirfa Due.

Rosanna Amaka

The world has lost a literary icon, teacher, and influencer. She was a trailblazer for African writers and deserves all the accolades being bestowed upon her. Her love of Africa, her astuteness in highlighting conflicts between men and women, and also between Africa and the Western world, by using her voice and literary talents will be greatly missed, but she has left an extensive legacy behind. My deepest condolences to her family.

Ber Anena

Ama Ata Aidoo! A name l grew up hearing about even before l knew that writing would be a thing l would learn to do, not just for me, but to share with the world. Rest well with the ancestors. Luckily for us, your words live!

Diana Anyakwo

I am deeply saddened by the passing of Professor Ama Ata Aidoo, a literary icon and inspiration. She paved the way for so many African authors and will be greatly missed.

Sylvia Arthur

Ama Ata Aidoo’s work showed me that the African women I knew in real life also existed on the page in all their feistiness and complexity. In the words of the classic Black feminist text: “All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave.” Ghana, Africa, and the world has lost one of our fiercest advocates for literature and African women. With gratitude for your outspokenness and bravery. Rest well.

Poetra Asantewa

Matriarch. Feminist. Critically acclaimed writer. Front-liner. Believer and creator of a better world. Eternal blueprint. Ama Ata Aidoo. We forge forward in tears at your passing, but with staunch hope, for you taught us through and through how to build an even better future. Da yie.

Uju Asika

We are not ready but we are never ready for one of our family members to leave. These past few days, I’ve read beautiful tributes from people close to me who knew Ama Ata Aidoo personally. I wasn’t so lucky and yet I will still call her Auntie Ama because that is how she feels. The auntie who takes your hand and says, ‘don’t listen to that nonsense, try it this like this or, even better, do it your own way.’ She was lucid and elegant in her prose that read like poetry. How she called you in as a reader as much as she called out the injustices and inequalities that continue to stifle our societies worldwide. How she centred Black women’s voices and the African woman’s experience without apology or affectation. I haven’t read her work in years and I regret that, as so often happens, it takes her passing on to remind me to revisit classics like Our Sister Killjoy and Changes: A Love Story and to discover more. Rest well, Auntie Ama, although I imagine you are still shaking tables in the great beyond.

Afia Atakora

Pictured: my own well-loved copy of Dilemma of a Ghost – the first play I ever read by an African woman. A play, fittingly, about returning home. To say it has inspired me is to say too little. Ama Ata Aidoo taught me Ghanaian pride, that great literature is not owned or defined by the western world. A good story is universal, a great story is home. May she rest well there.

Ayesha Harruna Attah

When I first read Anowa, I was in primary school. Its eponymous heroine was the first free-spirited Ghanaian woman I’d encountered in a book. Your words, Auntie Ama, made me want to live as rebelliously as Anowa; they made me want to write. They would inspire the way I would come to write about women. When I met you in person, years later, I was struck by your warmth, by your fierceness, by your generosity. “Anything for you,” you once wrote to me, when I suggested a meeting that would have you travel through Accra’s treacherous traffic. Your short story collection, No Sweetness Here, is one of my bibles. You were fearless – once telling a journalist to shut up, because he said Ghanaians weren’t producing any work of note. Thank you and rest well, Auntie Ama, nante yie.

Unoma Azuah

As a queer woman and as a writer of queer literature amongst my other types of writing, Ama Ata Aidoo is a trailblazer. Her works are classics from Anowa, Dilemma of a Ghost and Sister Killjoy. Her novel Sister Killjoy, for instance, an experimental work, is one of the very rare books by an African writer that resonates with me on many levels and particularly on the theme of lesbian relationships in African Literature. She is one of the few African writers to broach the subject of same-sex relationships. Further, her sensual use of language, especially with symbolism is outstanding. Her symbolic use of “plums” in presenting Sissie as Marija’s “plum” in Sister Killjoy is unique and fresh.” Beyond being a pioneer writer that shifted boundaries and carved out new paths, she helped me, through her writing, to understand the vital importance of decolonizing the mind. She does this cleverly through sarcasm. She is a foremother and a forebearer. I am grateful for the paths she cleared for me.

Gabeba Baderoon

In 2005, during a 3 month writing residency at the Nordic Africa Institute to finish my second book, A hundred silences, I decided to take my own course in Our Sister Aidoo and immersed myself in everything by her that I could find in the Institute’s very good library. Though I had read her work before, I felt a particularly deep gratitude and veneration for her right then and wanted to thank her by being close to her words. Why was I so grateful? Because the reason the NAI had invited me to be their Guest Writer was directly due to her. She had invented the position by asking Mai Palmberg, lover of African literature and curator of the project on Culture at NAI, why only scholars and not writers could have NAI’s Guest Scholar fellowships. Her visionary, rebellious question led to the creation of the Guest Writer fellowship at NAI, a position she justly filled, and in so doing she taught that important gathering place of African and Africanist intellectuals about the necessary presence of the arts. Once Our Great Sister had laid the path, I was honored to be the NAI’s second Guest Writer, followed by Shailja Patel and Tolu Ogunlesi.

Wasn’t Ama Ata Aidoo always ahead of us, laying the path with her courage and vision and writing? Let us take comfort from remembering this on her passing, that she has gone ahead, always our path-maker.

Doreen Baingana

As a fiercely outspoken woman warrior of African literature, Ama Ata Aidoo paved the way for African women writers everywhere to speak our truth. I met her only once, when her Mbaasem Foundation hosted the International Conference on Literature by Women of African Ancestry, Yari Yari Ntoaso, in Accra in 2013. We gathered around Aidoo’s hearth and shared Black female creative energy, which inspired me for many years after. Rest well, warrior.

Bibi Bakare-Yusuf

In Ama Ata Aidoo, we have a new worthy and weighty ancestor who has left us with a library full of stories beckoning us all to revisit, time and again. For her invaluable gift and contribution to the global archive of letters, I am deeply grateful. Till we meet again, it is good night, good morning, good afternoon.

Walter Kudzai Barure

Dear Ama, your influence has left an indelible mark on the literary world, inspiring countless individuals globally. The letters you generously wrote to us have ignited passionate discussions and sparked further research. They have laid the groundwork for new ideas, fostering an intellectual community that challenges societal norms and enhances our understanding of gender, culture, and identity. You have amplified women’s voices through your writing, empowering them to reclaim their narratives and assert their agency. Just as the burial of the umbilical cord symbolizes a profound connection to one’s roots and the celebration of new life, your literary contributions have nurtured a generation of thinkers, scholars, and activists. Your words have guided us, forging connections to our past while envisioning a more equitable and inclusive future. Your legacy will continue to shape the literary landscape and inspire future generations. On behalf of students, scholars, and admirers from around the world, I extend my deepest gratitude for the profound impact you have made. Your powerful letters have illuminated the experiences and struggles of African women, resonating with readers from diverse backgrounds.

TJ Benson

I will never forget that charged atmosphere on the final night of Ake when Molara Wood talked to you about your life. The unconventional directions even your earliest writing took and the fearlessness with which you challenged Western imperialism will always be a source of inspiration for me. Thank you Mama, Adieu.

Otoniya J. Okot Bitek

There have already been so many tributes to honor the brilliance, reach and powerful presence of our Ama Ata Aidoo, so I’ll try not to repeat others although we all write from this space of great loss. To refer to Ama Ata Aidoo as Professor Aidoo limits the gift to us as scholar, teacher and artist. To speak of her as aunty and mother, likewise, cannot cover the scope of the power of Ama Ata Aidoo. What I can say is that she was ours–beloved–and she knew this. In a panel gathering organized by Radical Books Collective last fall, I won’t forget how Ama Ata Aidoo gave us so much time and was so generous with her answers. She reminded us that feminism was about love. She would not pick favourites among the writers she was reading. And she shared with us that our father, Okot p’Bitek, was her friend in a moment that brought us to tears. The death of Ama Ata Aidoo leaves us all bereft; we hold Kinna and the rest of the intimate family close, to honor our claim as those she loved. Our deepest condolences to Kinna Reed.

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

I’m still processing the loss of Ama Ata Aidoo. I corresponded with her a few times because I wanted to start a literary prize in her name (which I believe someone must do), and again when she wrote a blurb for one of my books. I had the honor of meeting her in person at an event in October 2022, and was too awestruck to ask for a photograph with her. I had so much respect for her and her work. It was enough to just be in Auntie Ama’s presence and experience her commitment to candor, her sensitivity, and her inimitable voice up close. She so generously made herself accessible to so many.

Whenever I think of her, I remember the first time I encountered her writing. I was twelve years old, sent by my parents to live in Ghana, at a boarding school in Saltpond (which I would later learn was her hometown). I was homesick, bullied, and in a desperate state of mind. I struggled with the material we treated in class, and mostly shrank myself to avoid the constant drip of ridicule of my American accent, my inability to speak Fante, and more. But when we read Auntie Ama’s play DILEMMA OF A GHOST—about a Fante man called Ato who had recently returned from America to Ghana with his African-American wife, Eulalie—I sat up. That story made me feel affirmed in my right to exist in Ghana, even though I did not seem or sound traditionally Ghanaian. I’ll always love her for creating work that became the vehicle for me come to that.

As writers, we observe and reveal to free our readers and ourselves, to lighten burdens with truth and hope, to inspire some kind of change. We do what we can while we are here, and have to trust that the words we’re entrusted with will continue to do their work when our time on this side of eternity is up. Auntie Ama’s work lightened my load. May she rest in God’s peace now, as her words continue to do their work.

Panashe Chigumadzi

From across the Atlantic, Sister Nina Simone peers over 300 years of separation and asks, “Who knows where the time goes?”

You step across the Ocean to answer your sister, “Time by itself means nothing, no matter how fast it moves, unless we give it something to carry for us.”

You, before your time, birthed Anowa.

You, ahead of your time, are Our Original Sister Killjoy.

You, with your times, are haunted by the Ghost of the Middle Passage.

You give generations before, after, and with you, so much to carry in politics, prose, poetry, plays, and most importantly, in timeless spirit.

You are timeless and yet your transition will always be untimely.

You are a heavy weight on time.

Lala ngoxolo.

Tsitsi Dangarembga

I smiled yesterday reading WaAma Ata Aidoo’s tributes to WaMicere Mugo in WaNdirangu Wachanga’s great book. This morning I hear that our dear sister bring-joy Ama Ata Aidoo has joined the ancestors. Condolences to her family & friends. We have lost a granary of wisdom & knowledge.

Nokwanda Dlamini

Now among the stars on the nightshift lulling those among the greatest with profound knowledge and insight into the very core of what makes us human. Thank you for your joy because it has sheltered those in the cold and warmed those in stormy weathers. May you rest in peace.

Relebone Rirhandzu eAfrika

A common misconception is that feminism is an import from the West. We can confidently say today that it is not, because we have done the work of rebuilding our forgotten histories and so we know that African societies — although they were not perfect — were always progressive. We are able to do that because of intellectual giants like Ama Ata Aidoo. She championed African feminism, history, and decolonisation at a time in which it was not popular to do so. I am ever grateful for her words and presence. They taught me that I come from a rich intellectual ancestral heritage. I hope, like her, that we will always be committed to truth.

Martin Egblewogbe

She was a great story-teller – a fact clearly borne out by the easy relaying of the “gist” of any of her stories – which gist will be as engaging as the original text. Her writing was unlaboured, direct, and clear. In prose as in poetry, in poetry as in drama. But this is not the main point of my reflection here; the students of literature are best placed for this. Here are a few personal memories, selected from many. In earlier, premier, interaction, perhaps two decades ago, when she was concerned about my seeming resistance to an editorial review of one of my short stories (this is not unusual for a neophyte) she firmly insisted on the edits, and that was the beginning of my understanding of how editing may just be the difference between good and bad publications. In 2008, an experiment led me to self-publish my collection of short stories, Mr Happy and The Hammer of God. Unbeknownst to me Ama Ata Aidoo and her daughter, Kinna, picked up on these stories and made a recommendation to Ayebia Clarke publishers, who subsequently published the book (with minor edits…!) in 2012. This publication has been a defining moment in my writing life. I am still not sure exactly what drew Ama Ata Aidoo to the stories, but I sure am thankful. Knowing Ama Ata Aidoo and Kinna also led to interesting meetings and connections – my meeting along with some friends, with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o in Accra, for example, was through the invitation of Ama Ata Aidoo and Kinna. In the time that I knew her, I found that Ama Ata Aidoo whole-heartedly lent her support to individuals and groups within the literary space, and by so doing elevated many events simply through the importance of her person.

Stephen Embleton

Africa’s writers and poets, duly revered by her people, should be elevated to the global stage for the world to hear/read and love. Prof Ama is one of those voices which has and will continue to ring out of our hearts and souls. We keep her voice alive.

Nuruddin Farah

I loved Ama Ata Aidoo as a person and I adored her as a writer; I made sure that I visited her every time I happened to be in Ghana. I know few African authors whose work is as compelling, challenging and enjoyable as Ama Ata Aidoo’s. She was unique as a person and was also special in the way she approached her powerful, often humorous writing. I will miss her, and most of all, will miss her inimitable style of writing and her great sense of humour.

Chimeka Garricks

Ama Ata Aidoo was an inspiring pioneer—her life was a series of incredible stories of creating and walking in the first paths for others to follow. Though she has sadly passed, her strong voice still speaks, and her legacy still lives. We thank and owe her for the life she blessed us with. God rest her and comfort her loved ones.

Prof. Simon Gikandi

Although I did not meet Ama Ata Aidoo until the fateful decade of the 1980s when we encountered each other in exile, she had always been an important influence in my education largely due to Micere Mugo, my teacher at the University of Nairobi who knew her well through the Pan-African intellectual circuits of the 1960s and 1970s. Aidoo’s first play, The Dilemma of a Ghost, was popular in the student theater productions that I was involved in at the University. I came to know Ama Ata even better when we encountered each other at conferences in the United States in the last two decades of the 20th century. My later travels in Ghana revolved around places that had been central in her life and works: The world of Fanti culture, the streets of Cape Coast, the University of Ghana, Legon, where she had been a student playwright, and the University of Cape Coast where she taught for many years. These places were written into the fabric of her most important works including Anowa and Our Sister Killjoy. The last time I met Ama Ata was in November 2008 at an event, held at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. One of my priceless objects is a picture of Ama Ata, Chinua, and I from that event. In September 2022, in what would turn out be our last conversation, I sent Ama Ata a message asking her for permission to include Anowa in a collection of African plays that I’m co-editing. I attached a copy of the photograph as a mnemonic. This is the response I got: “Dear Simon, It was such a great pleasure to hear from you in the first place. Thanks very much for the messages you bring. And what a clear resolution the picture with you and Chinua and I had. Maybe I’ll imitate the youth and make it my WhatsApp status for a while at least!” Her sense of humor was irrepressible even in what was going to turn out to be the last moment of her passage through this life. Now that she is gone, let us play the Atumpaan drums and Atenteben flute and invite the Adowa dancers to escort her to the other world.

Ruby Yayra Goka

Thank you for lighting the way for the millions of girls on the continent who finally saw themselves and their stories in print. Rest well Prof.

Helon Habila

She was one of a kind. She made a path for so many younger African writers, especially women. Her work will live after her. She will be missed.

Chukwuebuka Ibeh

Ama Ata Aidoo pioneered so that the rest of us could follow. She treaded rough grounds, so that we wouldn’t have to. Her wisdom, courage and strength in the face of great odds have had an indelible impact on African literature, and for that, among many other reasons, she will be dearly missed.

Abubakar Ibrahim

Ama Ata Aidoo’s passing has killed the joy of having one of the last of the strong ones in our midst. She was a force in African literature, an inspiration for both men and women and a staple read for many in my generation who grew up with the many characters she created and introduced to us. I did not have the pleasure of encountering her life but through her brilliant daughter, Kinna Likimani, I got to know more about her and what a stellar woman she was. Her loss is a painful one because of what she means not only to her daughter, her family and the family of writers and readers in the continent. An African Queen departs.

Ogaga Ifowodo

Ama Ata Aidoo, one of Africa’s most distinguished writers, joins the ancestors. I don’t know anyone in my generation who did not read at least one of her very impactful plays or novels, most especially the culture conflict play, The Dilemma of a Ghost. Many years after I first read it as a third former at Federal Government College, Warri, it would provide the pivot for my examination of the famous African-American writer Richard Wright’s own unresolved cultural dilemma in a term paper as I ingratiated my love of writing and literature at Cornell, after a Master of Fine Art in poetry, and had gone on to a Ph.D in English. I entitled the paper “The Dilemma of a Ghost: Ambivalence, Politics and Race in Richard Wright’s Black Power.” I likened Wright’s predicament to that of Ato, the play’s protagonist. So, I can say, Ama Ata Aidoo was a mentoring spirit in that endeavour. It is a raucously joyous time in ancestordom as they welcome a worthy new entrant. Rest in peace, great one!

Eghosa Imasuen

It is sad news. I met Ama Ata Aidoo several times and at each meeting, I was struck by how accessible she was, how generous she was with her time and her words, how witty her repartee was. A generation is leaving us, and no matter how intently we rationalise this as inevitable, it is still unexpected and leaves a feeling of loss in me. Those whom we read, who inspired us with their stories on and off the page, are leaving. Our dreams are now clear. Do as they did and achieve immortality.

Tade Ipadeola

Through Ama Ata Aidoo, grand matriarch and arch feminist, Africa came alive for some of us as the field of endless possibilities. So enthralled was I with her thoughts on Africa that I went on a pilgrimage to her home in Accra. I’m going to cherish her wisdom and her kindness. She joins the ancestors accomplished. May she rest.

Rashidah Ismaili

On Reading the Sad News: Ama Too Aidoo
23 March, 1942 – 31 May, 2023

Just after reading the New York Times Art section where I see the continued resistance to returning stolen art that is in the museums of the United Kingdom; as I fill with rage at the arrogance of colonialism; at the condensation of what tries to mask as an ‘art sensitive gesture’ in the offering to LEND a few pieces of Benin icons looted centuries ago, I read the Obituaries and there is the announcement of my dear sister-in-arms of Pan African struggles and literary integrity for The Continent and Her Children; dead!

How to process this; “dead after a short illness?” This dynamic spirit of blazing eyes, searing brilliance, a force to be reckoned with, gone into the finite place of no return, of no access. How to speak to the silence of space that separates the living from the dead, her to me. The distance grows with each passing person who used to walk this earth with me, laugh with me, read to me and speak to the urgent need to be strong, vigilant in our quest for African autonomy and excellence. Telephones will not bring her voice to me laughing and crying at men’s folly, the cruelty of misogynists, racists, classism, exploitation and misappropriation of institutions of education, government, theological, and every manner of oppression the human mind has created; ALL!!!

How to show all these decades later, modern devices notwithstanding, the huge smile that greeted me over half a century ago when I was on my way home for class, carrying a grocery bag and my notebook, on Bleecker Street in The Village, just about to turn west on Morton Street where I lived with my very young son, when Ama Ata, smiled with open arms blocking my path; “Aow, how lovely.” The inflection in her voice told me she was West African and it put me at ease. I stopped and we embraced on that street filled with people going to and fro, in front of a bakery shop that made the best bread and if you were about around 11:00 at night when they were loading the delivery trucks, you could get a free loaf of still warm bread.

That is it, how it started, this sisterhood, circa 1963. She was visiting on a fellowship and I was in grad school, a single mother raising a male child. It turned out we had a mutual friend who lived nearby and who worked at The Mission and we met there on many occasions as he had parties for the sake of having Pan African exchanges with Continental Africans and Africans from the Diaspora. We were budding artists, writers and thought of ourselves as Thinkers/Philosophers/Intellectual Young Pioneers. We were devoted to Dr. Nkrumah’s vision of the New Africa and the African Youth who would go out into the world, gather another set of knowledge, come Back Home and integrate the new learning with the old and forge a path that would lead to the total re-formation of Africa where tribalism would not be a means of division but rather of broadening our understanding of what it meant to be simply An African.

Oh my dear sister, how often we cried at the disappointment of our dreams, at the intractable position of some of our most learned men and women. Still, you wrote your words of condemnation, of inspiration and created plays, poetry and fiction all for us to hear and experience the wonders of your gifts. The pain at being called a tool of Western Education and other such nonsense, most hurting, to not be understood for the message you, and me, we brought. Still you fought on and on. I know how painful it was for you to resign your position of Minister of Education and then to go to Zimbabwe. Fortunately, you found happiness there in real human terms; your daughter was born and later your first grandson.

Back home you continued your work; writing, forming a foundation and then, we came together to create OWWA; Organisation of Women Writers of Africa. You and Jayne Cortez were co-chairs, I was the Treasurer and we went on to plot out two incredible conferences; the first of its kind where women of African descent came together and shared experiences, writing methods, food and laughter. We were joyous and inspiring in our celebrations with our Men of Distinction. Always, always you were a dynamic source of knowledge and fun.

Now, how to navigate the loss, the emptiness. The void of your voice and wisdom along with Jayne Cortez, Amiri Baraka, Nawal al Saadawi, Kamau Brathwaite, George Lamming and so many others who said the words, took the positions, owned the podiums of the world, this void that chokes me, and sometimes leaves me without adequate words to shape the thoughts I am having and a response to the world events we witness daily. The march of self destruction of so many of our ‘leaders’ and youth chasing after torn jeans and multicoloured wigs, for an identity that denigrates and denies the Africanity of their history. How do we extol the strong who maintain their artistic and intellectual integrity, encourage them when many are in need of housing, a respectful venue and honest benefactors. And yet, dear sister, we must continue somehow without you, Tom Feelings, Virginia Hamilton, Lucille Clifton, Abbie Lincoln, Max Roach, Willie Kgostisile, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masakela, Sibongile Khumalo, Randy Weston, Esther Cooper Jackson, Harry Belafonte, all who have left their indelible marks on the cultural and human landscape. So I want to promise to be Aunty for your daughter and Go-Go for the young men, your grandsons. I promise to write as honestly as possible without your sharp critique. I promise to be a true Pan Africanist and advocate for women and indeed for the human specie as we struggle to make this world a home of art that inspires the best of each of us. To the children of Africa, sing your songs and sing praise for Ama Ata Aidioo and all those now silent voices. Read their works. Listen to their records. Look at their art in museums and books. Be inspired. Make your mark. Don’t let death take away the challenge and love, the smiles and urgings of those now quiet. Be artistically, intelligently, respectfully NOISY.

Sleep in grace, my dear smiling, Brilliant One.

Joy Jindu

Ama Ata Aidoo was a playwright, poet, short-story writer, novelist, and academic. She has been regarded as a trailblazer for African female writers in modern times. With her narrative style of writing, Ama Ata Aidoo challenged the pigeonhole role assigned to the African woman, and she was able to chart a course as a foremost feminist writer. One of her famous quotes, “Nobody could tell me writing was a man’s job,” is proof that she defied the conventional patriarchy nuances. When she passed away on 31 May, 2023, we were reminded of the daring and accomplished life she led.

Chika Jones

I recently heard someone say great writing aims to approach the world with empathy, but avoids pushing an ideology. While I agree with empathy, I reject the notion that writers should not have an agenda. Ama Ata Aidoo exemplifies the importance of an agenda. Her feminist stance as well as firm belief in African stories makes her a beacon of light in increasingly difficult times. As she leaves the earthly plane, her essence remains to comfort and embolden African writers and feminists.

Mamle Kabu

Through her writing, Auntie Ama gave African women a platform to question the patriarchy. Through her advocacy and her foundation, Mbaasem, she gave female writers a community to strengthen their craft. As a young writer she was kind and encouraging to me, and inspirational not only in her art, but in the way in which she welcomed new writers into the literary fold. In 2012 she did me the great honor of asking me to go in her place as a member of the African delegation to the Global Meeting of the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society in Deauville, France, a fantastic experience. Today, as one of the directors of the Writers Project of Ghana (WPG), I can say that she was always extremely supportive to us, participating in some of our earliest events and always doing her utmost to honor our invitations. She lifted others as she rose, inspiring us in turn to help welcome new generations of writers into the literary community. In continuing this work, we hope to honor her legacy. We miss you already, dear Auntie Ama. Rest in power.

Fabienne Kanor

When an African woman passes through the swinging doors of the other world, she does not disappear. She remains in our hips when we dance. She remains in our lips when we pray and kiss. She remains in our dreams when we fall asleep. She is our tongue and breathe when we tell our stories. She is our hand clenched into fist whenever we call for justice and fight for our rights.

Billy Kahora

I met Ama a few times and in all these moments she shared her love and knowledge with me with great aplomb and kindness. But what I remember most is a stern admonishment she sent me – I’d written her an email related to the possibility of her appearing at the Kwani? Litfest (unfortunately she couldn’t travel for health reasons). The email had a quote by a writer which I was using as an email signature. She told me in no uncertain terms that I had to remove the signature. I realised how right she was (that aesthetics are not everything and politics do matter) and I should be ashamed to believe otherwise and which I still am, so I will not say who the writer was … but I removed the quote.

Toni Kan

Ama Ata Aidoo has not died. No. A towering Iroko has fallen. The ranks of our ancestors have increased. A matriarch is no more and we are the poorer for it. After reading her books from when I was a kid, I finally met her several times thanks to Ake festival and what a woman; witty, direct, and unapologetically African. I remember her telling someone who addressed her as a mummy – “I am not your mummy o” even though she was a literary godmother to many of us. Rest in peace, “Sister Killjoy”.

Kasimma

Full recovery from grief is as impossible as reversing death. We can only come as near as possible to full. And on that journey, what soothes our aching hearts is memories. But Ama Ata Aidoo left us with more than memories. For this, I say, thank you. Thank you, Ama Ata Aidoo, for the gift of your name. Thank you for your words. Thank you for the doors you opened for us. You wrote female characters at a time when females were treated a little better than domestic animals. You wrote Ghanaian stories at a time when African books or books by the black race had no shelves in libraries. You taught us that we can be in books too. And we write ourselves into books because you showed us how. Thank you. It’s so sad to lose you, but we are all your inheritors. There is no achievement greater than when one’s name outlives them. That is what we thrive for. Ama Ata Aidoo, you did it! You conquered. Enjoy home, nnem.

My love and prayers to her family and friends.

Aleya Kassam

Our dearest beloved Professor Ama Ata Aidoo, for everything, Shukraan. May you rest in ease, in power. May the ancestors come with baskets of food, with song, with dance, with poetry, with joy to accompany you on this next journey. May we do justice to the legacy you leave us with. May your fire continue burning through our pens and our hearts.

Laila Lalami

So saddened to hear of the passing of Ama Ata Aidoo, whose work I first encountered decades ago in my African lit class in Morocco. She was a beautiful writer, a brilliant mind, and for me, as for many, an inspiration.

Siphiwo Mahala

I loved and respected Ama Ata Aidoo so much and it was wonderful to spend time with her in South Africa as part of Africa Month celebrations in May 2016. One of the special moments was to see Zakes Mda wheeling her into the auditorium of Amazwi South African Museum of Literature.

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Thank you for literature, for trailblazing, for calling out neocolonialism, for being unapologetically feminist but most of all, for sharing your wisdom as a literary elder. We are because you were. Safari njema.

Nkateko Masinga

I met Professor Ama Ata Aidoo in November 2017 at the Aké Arts and Book Festival in Abeokuta, Nigeria. A few days into the festival, I received my copy of the Aké Review, the festival’s official journal, and Prof. Aidoo’s photograph was on the cover of the journal accompanied by the quote, “Calling on young women to take themselves seriously,” from her interview with journal editor Molara Wood.

Reading that quote, and the full interview, a powerful four-page spread titled “Wherever and whenever I speak, it’s about us women”, I was inspired and enchanted. The expansion of her oft-quoted analysis and rejection of the narrative that African women are “downtrodden”, comforted me as I was wrestling for the reclamation of my personal agency at that time.

I had the opportunity to share a stage with Prof. Aidoo at the Palm Wine & Poetry event that formed part of the festival’s closing festivities and there is a moment that I cherish, in which she spoke to Koleka Putuma, Poetra Ama Asantewa Diaka, and myself as we sat beside her on stage, encouraging us to continue taking up space. Prof. Aidoo lived and wrote in fierce defense of the art and autonomy of African women and in us, her message lives on. Rest in Power, Prof. Aidoo. Thank you for showing us the way.

Nikki May

Thank you, Ama Ata Aidoo, for sharing your brilliance and giving so much to the continent we both call home. Author, politician, playwright, feminist and all round good person – you are an icon and a true legend. Rest in peace and power.

Peace Adzo Medie

Professor Ama Ata Aidoo wrote to us, and for us, and she did so beautifully. A critical and incisive thinker, she was honest and unflinching in her analyses of women’s place in Africa, and Africa’s place in the world. Her love for Ghana and its people shines through in her works. She challenged us to reckon with the past and the present and showed us how to articulate a freer and more just future. She leaves behind a towering legacy. Professor Aidoo, thank you for all that you gave us. Hede nyuie.

Muthoni Muiruri

Ama Ata Aidoo is a true icon who gave so much of herself to us so generously. Her passion for storytelling and social justice has always been a cornerstone of her work. Her commitment to feminist politics and advocacy, illuminating the experiences and challenges of African women in various contexts, broadened the scope for us, and allowed us to see just how far we could go if we kept pushing the boundaries of what we thought we were allowed to do and who we thought we were allowed to be as African women. As I reflect on her time with us, I celebrate the enduring legacy of her remarkable life and literary career, which continues to inspire generations. Ama Ata Aidoo, a giant on whose shoulders we stand. Thank you for giving us something so valuable. Rest well.

James Murua

Ama Ata Aidoo was one of the first writers to emerge in the post colonial period with titles like Our Sister Killjoy or Reflections from a Black-eyed Squint (1977). While she was known for her writing, what she gave to the writing in later years was the recognition she gave to the next generation of writers. For those who started the literary canon for the new age, for those who she inspired currently working, and for those who follow, she will always be a shining light.

Rest In Peace Prof.

Tinashe Mushakavanhu

Even though it was Ghana that gave us Ama Ata Aidoo, growing up in Zimbabwe, where she lived in the 1980s, when I was young I always assumed she was Zimbabwean. Her books were ubiquitous, easily available in local bookshops, home libraries and even the school curriculum. After resigning from her ministerial post in Jerry Rawlings Ghana and relocating to Zimbabwe she quickly joined the nation building project as she had done in her home country. She assisted our Ministry of Education in curriculum development, and was also an active presence in Harare’s burgeoning writing community. With Kristina Rungano, Barbara Makhalisa, Freedom Nyamubaya, Bertha Msora, Ama Ata Aidoo was at the vanguard of black African women writers to be published in English in Zimbabwe soon after independence. And perhaps that’s her ultimate legacy, to transcend borders, as she will be eternally present to all of us through the work she has left us.

Ray Ndebi

In 2020, I was called among a many other authors, to contribute to anthology for the 80th anniversary of Ama Ata Aidoo… It is the kind of request that cannot be denied, and I wrote a short story titled “Strangers”… Later on, I received a copy of BETWEEN THE GENERATIONS that is still one the books I always keep near…

Ama Ata Aidoo is is not just a name like many in libraries; she is a Way, a legacy that tells the future… Reading Ama Ata Aidoo is experiencing life, humanity, freedom; to me she remains the Future, for I cannot mention her in the past, and the the present still has a universe to learn from her writing… I visited Ghana in 2019, I led literary translation workshops in Accra, I didn’t see her, but I met her breath along the streets, in people’s eyes, on the walls of building and on the soil… The 3A-Lady is everywhere there…

Should we remember her… She is in us and around… I can say a whole world on what she inspires me as literature mentor and a human being, but I shall stop here, for time says a flesh is no more and a soul is offered forever and more… I’m opening this new chapter with the following verses drawn from “Juliana”:

If what has been is what now is,
Then darkness is here and may never leave.

It’s simply the most powerful call to work, growth and freedom…

We keep the walk on, Ama… The life of an artist never ends… Never…

Okey Ndibe

Ama Ata Aidoo’s mortal clock ran out on May 31, 2023, punctuating an extraordinarily remarkable career as a writer and a consequential, trail-blazing life as a feminist intellectual.

Ama Ata died at 81, but—thanks to the peerless literary heirloom she bequeathed to the world—her voice won’t be stilled or erased for generations to come.

Long before I met Ama Ata Aidoo in person, I was quite familiar with her immense literary reputation. She was one of the most original and revolutionary novelists and dramatists to emerge in postcolonial Africa. Even though she began her literary career in an era dominated by such male Anglophone authors as Chinua Achebe, Ayi Kwei Armah and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, she more than held her own. In the early 1980s, she was a fixture on the African literary scene, an inspiring household name whose fiction and drama attracted wide, fervent readership.

I finally met her in person in the late 1980s. I was then based in Amherst, MA, editing African Commentary, a magazine co-founded by Chinua Achebe. Ama Ata, who was one of the magazine’s editorial contributors, came to the area to visit her daughter, Kinna, who at the time was a student at Smith College in nearby Northampton.

I was struck at once by Ama Ata’s diminutive size. It was one of those occasions when it dawned on one that giants sometimes come in (compact or small) sizes! Even more unmistakable was her quiet majesty and moral gravitas, a charm and wit wedded to a common touch. She had a way, accomplished as she was, to put people at ease.
She was, above all, a proud, doting mother who spoke with such feeling about Kinna.

A few years later, Ama Ata and I overlapped for one year at Brown University where she’d been teaching for several years, and I had just taken up a four-year visiting appointment. I was flattered when she invited me to be a guest lecturer in her African literature class.

She was a kind, joy-rich woman, a fabulous raconteur whose sense of humor and great laughter held any audience in thrall.

In Nigerian lingo, the departed are said to have transitioned to glory. Ama Ata Aidoo lived gloriously.

Stephanie Newell

Ama Ata Aidoo inspired many generations of women around the world. She was witty, brilliant, and generous, and did not suffer fools. We have lost a sparkling mind, but she will live on as a role model for generations to come.

Mukoma wa Ngugi

Ama Ata Aidoo was such a pillar that with her passing the African literary tradition wobbles. My condolences to Kinna Likimani and her family. And to her literary family. Ah, the joys of reading Our Sister Killjoy, and teaching Dilemma of a Ghost with Dr. Carole Boyce Davies. I know what we mean when we say that when an elder dies a library dies with them. But when a writer dies, they actually do leave a library behind. Our mourning should be us spending as much time as we can with the libraries they gift us.

Wendy Njoroge

I am grateful for the extraordinary life of Ama Ata Aidoo, a literary icon whose words ignited our imagination and transformed our understanding of African literature. Her groundbreaking works challenged colonial narratives and celebrated the rich complexities of African culture, paving the way for countless storytellers to follow. Through her unyielding pen, she forever etched her name in the annals of African literature, leaving behind a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

Nzube Nlebedim

I was shocked cold to find out on Tuesday afternoon of the death of Mama Ama Ata Aidoo. Not because she was invincible (she was 81, obviously old, and had lived a fruitful life), but because she seemed to me too big, too powerful and towering, definitely bigger than life and death itself. Her death could have been akin to the burning of libraries full of rare knowledge and information. I had read some of her plays in my undergrad days in the university, and I understood her work and what she stood for.

It is usually only once in a lifetime that we get to experience people like Mama Aidoo: so distinct, unmatchable and pure. Mama will be remembered as one of those people who walked this earth and left footprints that may be too big to be filled, and words too precious to be forgotten. She lived not just for the beauty in writing and the peace it gave her, but for the emancipation of women and the proper understanding of their roles in African societies. Mama Aidoo fought not just for herself but the multitude of women and female writers all over Africa. For this, she will always be remembered.

We must take consolation in the truth that Mama Ama’s death is not indeed a burning of libraries. Thankfully, it’ll never be. She left with us everything she took up and nurtured: her words and her ideas. African Literature will always be indebted to her for this.

Rest in perfect peace, Ama Ata Aidoo. The world knows you lived.

Sihle-Isipho Nontshokweni

*Death doth not dull light*

Sweet _sister killjoy_
Wisest Daughter of the soil
Skin the sweet scent of cocoa and yam
Sharp lines on your cheeks,
ready to write scripts and
_Angry letters in January_
Your love as fresh as palm wine at the rise of dawn
Bravery the size of big buffalos
Gallant and gail, wise and warm,
Death doth not dull your radiant light

You are Africa at her brightest dawn,
A spirit soaring along the rising sun
Ghana, _you are the bead that speaks_
Your words gallop from your belly, like Chariots of Fire
Your voice ablaze, screams against the of scramble for Africa
Blessed is your name Ama Ata Aidoo,
Across countries & continents,
_daylight and darkness_ your light shines
Death doth not dull your visionary life

You hum and sing, loud and strong
An orchestra stirring for change, echoing
Pressing beneath the soil of the earth
You clap, you write, you speak with no fear
Pulling out weeds of injustice,
planting seeds of awakening, fortifying unwavering roots
for children yet to be born, _for little girls who can_
through you, we see whom we can be,
*Ama Ata Aidoo,* you point to futures unseen
Death doth not dull your charming heart

Our lives, formed and informed by your consciousness
Your womb, a well of wisdom watering the earth,
We watch for you here still, and find you present
In our highest hopes, in the merry songs that children sing
In the surge of the open seas, on the dramatised stages of theatric plays
Gathered In the courage of women’s dreams
Death doth not dull your glorious legacy

Rest now, you gallant warrior of light
Tread valiantly into the eternal dream of another life,
Into that everlasting sanctuary of love arise,
Above the winds, tall and wise,
Watch over your dream for this wandering world
Death doth not dull YOU to US

Sue Nyathi

Ama Ata Aidoo, a pioneer in the publishing of African women. You may be gone physically, but your soul lives on through your indelible words. Your body of work is a lasting legacy that generations to come will inherit. Thank you, yours was a life well lived.

Aiwanose Odafen

Ama Ata Aidoo was a stalwart of African feminism, a champion of African literature, a resounding voice for African women and a generational inspiration. It is because of her that many of us exist; we heard her words and read her works, and believed it was possible—we could defy the stereotypes and tell our stories. A trailblazer. An icon. A mother. The African literary space has lost a guiding star. Rest in peace Mama. May all who knew and loved her be comforted in this time.

Mazzi Odu

The saying goes never to meet your heroes, but in this instance, I am ever grateful I met one of mine, the great, and hard to believe I’m typing this, late, Ama Ata Aidoo, who died today.

It was 8 years ago, a sunny morning in Accra, and I worked for a bank, and I occasionally, quietly dreamt of another existence where I wrote for a living instead. As is often the case (for me at least) silent entreaties AKA prayer intervened and the bank was sponsoring an event, (which was part of my job purview to manage) and I got the opportunity to spend a morning with Auntie Ama. Gritty, smudge phone screen aside, my fangirl-for-life grin and her gentle but still warm side eye smile say it all. A morning to remember forever. I briefly shared with her my dream to write. To which she said as only a fearless, dynamic, pioneering literary force of the post-colonial African era would, “Then write.” So here I am 50,000 words in (of a re-worked novel), dozens of articles later, a travel book out that I edited and finally finessing my sophomore faith related book and a little something-something for small peeps.

Thank you, Auntie Ama. That two word nudge shifted me out of a decade-long inertia, self-doubt, paralysing perfectionism with a soupcon of future-tripping disaster preparedness that was almost as risible as it was, ultimately unacceptable. Sometimes, we over think, when we must simply do and be all that the almighty has called us to be. Share our ideas, knowledge, experiences, and fire for no other reason than it is a joy, a duty, and a gift. And nothing is ever promised.

If you haven’t read any of her work, hers is an oeuvre that deserves a proper considered deep-dive: Our Sister Killjoy, Changes, No Sweetness Here and Anowa are MUST READS, Rest In Peace.

Gabriel Kosiso Okonkwo

TRIBUTE TO AN ENIGMA

The demise of the great Ama Ata Aidoo greeted me with emotional ambivalence. On the one hand, I tried to accept the inevitability of death as a final event in a person’s life especially from the standpoint of a senior who lived to see old age with thunderous achievements. But on the other hand, I equally struggled to rationalize why death would decide to take a gem like Aidoo at a time when her presence and guidance was most needed. Be that as it may, divine conciliation soon stepped in to palliate the quandary that had developed in me. I soon understood that Aidoo had successfully replicated thousands of other Aidoos who would continue her rare literary legacy in the world. I mourn Aidoo today because she has left an indelible mark of excellence and hope in me. I cannot forget the impacts that The Dilemma of a Ghost (1965 and 1988), Anowa (1971), and Our Sister Killjoy (1977) had on me in a hurry. I have grown into a better African man from the flickers of philosophical freshness that adorn these works. In Aidoo’s demise, our pain became our gain.

Requiescat in pace.

Chinelo Okparanta

I’m so saddened to hear of your passing, Prof Aidoo. Thank you for championing us in your art, for speaking up on our behalf, for gracing us with your wisdom and creativity, for knowing the importance of activism in art. Though the body is gone, I know your spirit is still with us, and may your memory always be a blessing.

Nadja Ofuatey-Alazard

Ama Ata Aidoo aka AAA: Literary Giantess. Author. Teacher. Dramatist. Feminist. Panafricanist. Public Intellectual. Mentor. Grandmother. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Elder. Now: Ancestress. Now: Much missed trailblazer. When I think/feel back; my mind takes me to the year 2015: You and Wole Soyinka were the two patrons of the 41st Annual Conference of the African Literature Association which we convened at Bayreuth University: »African Futures and Beyond. Visions in Transition«. We opened our concurrently running Festival of African & African-Diasporic Literatures that year with your keynote and Yaba Badoe’s wonderful film about your life and work: The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo. You almost did not make it for the event though: You were treated so poorly at the German embassy in Accra when going in for your appointment that you understandably refused to go back. But we ultimately got an apology from them and they delivered the visa to your home. When you got to Bayreuth, you held court – most of the time surrounded by troves of fangirls and fanboys of all ages.

You were kind and cordial, but also a no-nonsense woman: when I accompanied you to an interview you had agreed to give to a regional paper – and did not consider some questions about your life worth your while – you simply told the interviewer: You can google that…! (This still makes me crack up, I have the melody of your voice when stating that clearly embossed in my memory.) You also were an endearing sweet tooth and a curious appreciator of all things delicious – my then young daughter Bennie made it her mission to find and deliver you a nice slice of Black Forest Cake (mind you, we were in Franconia …) which you had inquired about (What is so special about that Black Forest Cake people have been telling me about?!?) and you duly cherished the experience and her efforts while still offering to share it with the others present.

That summer of 2015 we took the possibly best group selfie ever with you in our midst, the image continues to occupy a special space on my personal wall of fame. Dear Ama Ata Aidoo, thank you, we adore you, we miss you. You touched my life – my thinking, sensing, being – especially your Our Sister Killjoy walks with me always.

Othuke Ominiabohs

Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo was a remarkable author and she is an irreplaceable force in African literature, fearlessly shedding light on profound issues that deeply impacted The continent. She will be deeply missed.

Yewande Omotoso

It’s hard to know when I first learnt of a writer, a forcefield, named Ama Ata Aidoo. Likely in my home in Ife, as a preteen. It feels as if Changes was handed to me off the press and I read it with equal urgency, consuming the words but also the vast world of poignant meaning Aidoo always managed to stash beneath, within, between and amidst her words. Like magic she did this, so that her wide expanse of work seems even wider for the weight of its influence. On hearing of her departure to other realms I looked back, almost every interview I’ve been afforded, her name has crept up – she must be spoken of and cited; in so many ways she shaped not just my writing but my impulse. Many years ago I was lucky to help deliver a writing workshop in Accra – hosted by The Mbaasem Foundation – and Aidoo attended, dispensed grace and wisdom. It was here I heard her speak a sharp and elegant term – describing the thin line between writing fiction as political tract and writing fiction that is politicised but not dogmatic; writing, she said, with a politicised imagination. I have repeated and will continue to repeat this, it landed somewhere verdant in my consciousness and has guided me since. I turned that occasion, and her contributions, into a podcast which was published online. I have been frantically searching the Internet for it this past week – the way we look for pictures or records of those dear that pass on. I can’t find it. The webpage says: Error. To all those grieving, most especially her nearest ones, I extend my thoughts and heart.

Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang

Ama Ata Aidoo is associated with the words “global icon,” “pathfinder,” and “inspiration,” and belonged to that generation of writers that included Bessie Head, Florence Nwapa, and Buchi Emecheta. She was not only resilient and innovative; she contributed to shaping the literary landscape and provoking conversations about gender and social justice, broadening the scope of modern African literature away from male centered concerns. Having grown up in the colonial era and witnessed the evolution of Ghana and Africa first-hand into the 21st century, she again spoke forcefully to Eurocentric modes of being by crafting strong female characters that harnessed nationhood and nation-building in important ways. 

In addition to being a scholar, novelist, poet, playwright, and author of short stories, Aidoo was an activist, stateswoman, and policy shaper. She served as minister for education in Ghana and advised Zimbabwe’s ministry of education. She again taught at different universities and won several awards. Her organization Mbaasem was interested in mentoring young writers while improving the quality of formal education in Ghana.  

The history and progress of African literature will forever be associated with her literary prowess, and her passing leaves a huge void for those who follow after her. 

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

A great, and giant tree that sheltered many beings has fallen. For her life, her vision, her way-making…gratitude.

Nadia Owusu

I first discovered Ama Ata Aidoo’s novel Our Sister Killjoy in one of my father’s book piles when I was eleven or so. As a Ghanaian girl growing up in Europe, I was shocked by the recognition. There on the page was some version of my lifeworld and a sharp political analysis of it which I likely didn’t fully understand at the time, but which informed my sense of self and my understanding of the borders I straddle. But I didn’t return to Aidoo’s work until I was an adult. Novels by African writers, and especially African women were hard to come by. In fact, reading Changes in my twenties, I realized that Aidoo was the first African woman writer I’d ever read. In school, there was only Things Fall Apart, which I loved and clung to, but why not also Aidoo? Why not an African feminist who wrote about African women with depth and complexity, with power and conviction, but also love and humor? I’m grateful that I found her work when I did and that I encountered it again when I needed it. My hope is that Aidoo and so many other African women writers will be taught and celebrated so that other little African girls don’t grow up not even realizing that they and their mothers and aunties and grandmothers are almost entirely missing from the stories they’ve been given and told are the most important stories of the world. What a strange experience it is to not even know you’ve been erased until there you are, exquisitely drawn. That experience led me to question the false hierarchy of stories, the false primacy of white, male, Western literature. Thank you Prof. Aidoo for that. Thank you for your work and your vision. Rest in peace.

Oyeronke Oyewumi

Ama Ata Aidoo: A Powerful Pose for All Time!

In life and in transition, we continue to learn from our worthy Ancestor! One of the terrible lessons that African women learnt from western education, western modernity or western civilization is the idea that as women we must reduce ourselves, miniaturize our bodies, minimize our presence in order to be considered civilized & ladylike! Not so for African women who have not totally imbibed this terrible learning. In many African communities, ordinary, self-possessed women claim their own space. No forced crossed legs— they spread out, command attention and inhabit their own bodies comfortably! This picture brought a smile to my face! Iya sun re o!

Shailja Patel

Her legacies are incalculable. The spaces she opened for us, the horizons she bequeathed us – political, imaginative, literary, academic, feminist – are immeasurable. May we expand and multiply to fill them.

Minna Salami

When asked in an interview once how she deals with people saying that she learned feminism outside of Africa, and how she came to give voice to the silenced African woman, the legendary Ghanaian feminist writer, Ama Ata Aidoo, replied, “…if the women in my stories are articulate, it is because that is the only type of women I grew up among. And I learned those first feminist lessons in Africa from African women.”

She in return is one of the reasons so many of us are proud African feminists, and, African feminist *writers* because, make no mistake, Aidoo was one of the greatest English language writers of her time.

Rest in perfect peace, Ama Ata Aidoo. No doubt, you will continue to be a fierce and wise consciousness in the ancestral realm.

Ato Quayson 

Ama Ata Aidoo was not only a superlative writer and educator, but also a superb wit. She was a keen observer of everyday life and it was out this that she dredged out the wry observations about the human foibles that animated both her writings and her conversations. But this was not all. With every word, she sought to lend strength to the exhausted and hope to the despairing. She is going to be missed by many. May her soul Rest in Most Perfect Peace

Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah

I don’t think I’ve accepted that Auntie Ama is no longer with us. I know we are lucky that she stayed with us for as long as she did, and even in her final months, she participated in as many literary events as she could. I remember seeing her at the last NYU Accra Dialogue and promising I’d bring my daughter to visit her. She was as warm and witty as ever. Auntie Ama thanks for blessing us with your wisdom, passion and intellect. You leave behind a huge creative archive which will inspire generations moving forward. Rest in perfect peace.

Bhakti Shringarpure

I had been fervently hoping to do an event with the legendary Ama Ata Aidoo since we started the Radical Books Collective and was beside myself when Esther Armah, writer, RBC board member and longtime friend, told me that the legend herself has agreed to do this. It all happened at breakneck speed. Professor Aidoo chose the date, the time, the format. Having been caught up in the planning, the details and the technicalities, I was almost stunned into shock when she actually showed up in the studio. Resplendent in orange and gold, she seemed completely in charge yet a little befuddled by all the zoom rituals. She was larger than life but so warm and intimate in her interaction; the little screen rectangle couldn’t contain her luminous energy. She had lots and lots to say, and she did not answer a single question without challenging it first. Soon we were joined by some fierce women I absolutely adore: Ainehi Edoro, Meg Arenberg, Juliane Okot Bitek and Esther Armah. We sailed along as if we were in a fable and she alternated between teacher, mother, grandma, friend, comrade and aunt. By then a massive international community of loving fans had joined the online forum and they were popping questions, making comments, Professor Aidoo was replying and remembering this one and that one. She then got teary remembering that she had met Juliane’s father, the renowned poet Okot p’Bitek who wrote The Song of Lawino. The event did not seem to be coming to an organic end. We promised her and each other that we’re doing this in person in Accra soon. This happened only eight months ago in September 2022. When I heard that this magical person had left us, I felt like I had been blindsided. She seemed vibrant, how can this be? It took me a few days to reorient and return to that beautiful day and realize that she was orchestrating a grand finale where we could all come together as sisters, friends, artists and teachers, where we could bask in her beauty and learn about love and joy. Ama Ata Aidoo did so many different things and she did them so well but her superpower lay in bringing people together and building a world.

Wole Soyinka

A warm hearted being and feisty writer. She fills more than her fair share of over half a century’s creative recall.

Lynda Gichanda Spencer

I first encountered Ama Ata Aidoo through her play Anowa. It is one of the foundational literary works to my feminist thinking. Decades later, I joined a reading group named Black Sister Killjoys. Ama Ata Aidoo was, is and will continue to be an inspiration. I am grateful for the beautiful stories. Hamba kahle, lala ngoxolo.

Wole Talabi

The continent has lost one of its finest literary daughters, a creative powerhouse who gave so much of herself – her words, her observations, her wonder – and in so doing deeply enriched our lives. She will always be remembered. My deepest condolences to her daughter Kinna and her entire family.

Tlotlo Tsamaase

It’s a tragedy and a great loss. My condolences to her loved ones. I am forever grateful for Ama Ata Aidoo’s legacy—her timeless work, life, and powerful voice will forever light our way forward. Rest well, Ama Ata Aidoo.

Novuyo Tshuma

It is a heavy and immense day when our matriarch, the great elephant of African and world letters, joins the ancestors. I mourn and celebrate the great Ama Ata Aidoo. In my teens, Changes fired up my imagination; I was enthralled by the transgressive, visionary Esi and her inspiring, tragic story. I had the immense pleasure of meeting Ama Ata Aidoo at Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus Writing Workshop in Nigeria in 2010. She was as witty, as charming, and as luminous as her characters. Go well, matriarch! We stand on the lofty plains of your timeless words.

Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún

In the short stories of Ama Ata Aidoo (formerly Christina A. Aidoo), I read within the pages of “Black Orpheus” (published in the sixties), her power of observation, a keen sense of awareness of issues of justice, gender, and economics in the lives of Ghanaian and African women in society was obvious. And her prose, my God! “He was beautiful, but that was not important. Beauty does not play such a vital role in a man’s life as it does in a woman’s — especially if that man is a Fanti. If a man’s beauty is so ill-mannered as to be noticeable, people discreetly ignore its existence”, she wrote in the opening paragraph of the story “No Sweetness Here” that would become the title story of her 1970 collection. Memorable words that drew in the reader and sustained them through the tragedy of the story’s heroine and her son. The Ama Ata Aidoo I met in a few encounters at Aké Festival in Nigeria around 2014 was a personification of that wise and sagely matriarch who was firm and friendly, regal yet accessible. For a profession that was mostly male-dominated — at least mostly male-acclaimed for many years while she practiced, she held her own in African literature and made a path through which many women writers have succeeded and now mostly dominate. The sum of her work over the decades represents the best of us not just in literature, but also in politics, academics, and feminism. I feel honored to have met her, and her daughter Kinna, and wish her a safe journey to her great place among the ancestors. She was a blessing; may her memory continue to be.

Hilda J Twongyeirwe

Rest well Mother Ama Ata Aidoo. You will forever be remembered for lighting the literary candle for African women writers. We celebrate you for breaking boundaries and reaching out to all those who needed your hand; that is how you came to us in Uganda, even when your health and literary agents could have disagreed at the time.

The FEMRITE sisterhood was so lucky to drink from your cup of wisdom especially when you officiated at her literary celebrations in Jan 2000, where you taught us to defend ourselves without raising a finger. As one speaker in the audience stood up and despised a book written by one of us, you turned and said to us; “Do we have to sit here and listen to this? No.” You then turned and looked at the speaker and you giggled your trademark giggle. I can still hear it. The speaker looked at you, swallowed his words and sat down. You smiled your win and continued to direct the conversation to a fruitful end.

Memories of you will remain etched in our existence till we meet again.

Go well.

Our deepest condolences to the family especially our dear sister Kinna Likimani.

Akumbu Uche

Any entry on African literature that doesn’t mention Ama Ata Aidoo is incomplete. Emerging onto the literary space at a time when the art and business of writing was male-dominated, Ama Ata Aidoo showed the world that women’s writing mattered too. She made no apologies for her gender, and in her novels, plays and short stories, she centred women’s lives and laid bare the complexities of African womanhood. Not content with being one of few, in 2000, she established the Mbaasem Foundation which encouraged and championed girls’ and women’s writing in both her native Ghana and across Africa. Her feminism was as practical as it was Pan-African.

Aidoo’s work, both off and on the page, has long guided my own writing practice. As she takes her place amongst our eminent ancestors, I celebrate her life and all that she stood for, and count myself fortunate to have had her example.

Obinna Udenwe

Ama Ata Aidoo was one writer from Africa whose name I grew up to. I am quite unlucky to have not been privileged to meet her but my respect for her tripled when I came across her book, Our Sister Killjoy. Her name and works, especially in the areas of women liberation, using her platform as a writer, may not be equaled in the near future. She was one of the earliest champions of literature in Africa, at a time of very limited resources and for her to have achieved all she did using her writings in several genres, encourages us, emerging writers and creatives to not relapse to the excuse of poor infrastructure but to strive to make the best out of the little at our disposal. I pray for the repose of her soul as I have no doubt that her works will resonate for centuries to come.

Uchechukwu Umezurike

Fierce warrior of the pen, Ama Ata Aidoo, is gone. We stand here on this twilit shore, progeny, watching your spirit soar on distant winds. What songs should we sing now? The long drums begin their funeral procession; a chorus of voices dim with memories. I should beat my chest and mourn, but I choose to celebrate the radiance you exuded in the firmament of literature. I remember listening to you in Kokrobite, Accra, Ghana, where several African writers had gathered to work on an anthology. It was in 2009, but I still see you sitting before us, regal as befitting your status and ever fierce in your conviction that we must keep telling stories, even when there is no sweetness at home or abroad. I remember your heart, large as goodness, your humour as fresh as a benediction, and how much reinvigorated I had felt from listening to you. Then the sun had started to settle over the thatched gazebo and the beach, flushing the sky whole in flamingo pink. And I know now that you have gone but your radiance lingers, and that is enough. Adieu!

Ejiro Umukoro

CELEBRATING ONE OF THE WORLD’S NOTABLE PLAYWRIGHTS & AUTHORS AS SHE PASSES ON – Ama Ata Aidoo! GHANA!

Ama Ata Aidoo once said: “Time by itself means nothing, no matter how fast it moves, unless we give it something to carry for us; something we value. Because it is such a precious vehicle, is time.” That statement is very profound.

Her first play, The Dilemma of a Ghost, published in 1965, made her the first published African woman dramatist, which was no small feat when you flash back to history and how women’s intelligence were once viewed…
While she has been described as one of Africa’s foremost feminist in Ghana, (I do not describe myself in those terms, even though I understand and respect what led to the movement since the 1900s), which her fellow African Women equally championed like Flora Nwapa, Efua Sutherland, Bauchi Emecheta, etc., her books will remain the legacy that she leaves behind for us to dig in again to relieve how she saw the world.

I also love her deep trusting confidantelike-relationship with her daughter Kinna Likimani (an editor and literary critic – the fruit does not fall far from the tree obviously), is a dream most daughters and mothers would wish they have; something I’ll encourage mothers to be intentional about.

As she passes on to another realm at 81, I want to thank her for her contribution as one of Africa’s and the World’s most celebrated authors and playwrights.

But most importantly, I want to thank her for opposing what she described as the “Western perception that the African female is a downtrodden wretch”! The audacity of the West never fails to surprise me at every turn!

Farewell Ma Ata Ama Aidoo, until we meet again where we will all meet in the alternate forms of life.

Chika Unigwe

The first time I met Aunty Ama , we were guests at the same festival in Norway. I was at the breakfast table with some others and she joined us. Perhaps, noticing how we’d been struck dumb by being in her presence, she immediately initiated a conversation. She felt like home: familiar ( not just because I’d devoured her works for years and looked up to her, but because she carried a presence that made her seem like someone you’d known all your life). By the end of that festival, I thought of her as an aunt and claimed her as such. She was a brilliant writer, a passionate African and a charismatic human being. I am deeply grateful that she lived.

Joya Uraizee

Ama Ata Aidoo, playwright, poet, novelist, was part of Africa’s first-generation women writers. She affirmed the agency of African women and defined them beyond victimhood. Author of, among others, The Dilemma of a Ghost, Our Sister Killjoy, Changes and Anowa, she inspired a generation of African students and aspiring young writers. Visionary writer, educator and activist, she was, between 1982-1983, Secretary for Education in Ghana’s national government. She was a founding member of the African Literature Association (and the Women’s Caucus within the ALA). She won many literary awards including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1992 for Changes. She remains an inspiration for women, scholars, and students of African literature around the world.

Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

Quarrelsome woman (For Ama Ata Aidoo)
(23 March 1942 – 31 May 2023)

Sissy, we have always known
your words will outlive
your great grandchildren
For they are hewn
from the indestructible tree
called humanity
mined from the glittering caves
of dreams
they are the sweat of unflinching honesty

We will refuse the bitterness that
failed to recognize you as a giant
Hissed that you are only a quarrelsome woman
We will refuse the despair that says
you leave an absence and thank you
for your fearless presence
We promise, always, to cherish
your gifts

Go home in peace, there is a banquet waiting
stars proudly watch their young sister
step into the circle
as the drums welcome you
into eternity

Ellah Wakatama

I remember meeting Ama Ata Aidoo in Lagos in 2014, during celebrations for the Etisalat Prize. She is warm, kind, funny… exacting. I kneel beside her wheelchair and touch her arm… anticipating, as we speak, my sister’s excitement when I tell her about this meeting. On her passing, I look up a documentary interview with her and I watch and listen: smooth dark skin marked with scars that are themselves a conversation I wonder at… I watch and listen. And I feel on solid ground. She is compelling, assured, challenging. Everything I want my own voice to be. We are in a moment in which everything seems possible for a young black woman writing. It has not always been this way. As we commemorate this blessed life gifted to us, let us sing acknowledgment of an ancestor who did not wait to ask permission, who knew her worth and the worth of the women whose lives she wrote, who told the world tales of our capacity for adventure, our ability to resist and triumph, the warmth with which humour lessens the burden of the day, all the quotidian mercies and joys of our lives.

Zukiswa Wanner

There are writers who think new forms of writing and thinking ended with their generation. And they are writers who are consistently open to learning from previous generations and those who come after them. It’s the latter writer I admire the most and I aspire to be like. And it’s the latter writer that Ama Ata Aidoo was. She was always clued in about what was happening in contemporary literary circles and had no problem checking those of us she knew if she felt we were falling on the wayside. Whenever she and I talked, whether in person or in one of our lengthy WhatsApp calls, our conversations would end with me feeling much richer intellectually and much lighter emotionally. Ama Ata Aidoo was as witty as she was generous with her time but also did not suffer foolishness. I and other writer friends were lucky that Kinna was willing to share her with us. The woman I called ‘mummy.’ I will miss her immensely. Her brilliance, her laughter, her analyses, her well of knowledge. But I also know that we who knew her are all the richer for having known her and those who did not know her personally still attained some wealth through her work as a writer, a social commentator, a feminist and a pan-Africanist.

Molara Wood

Ama Ata Aidoo’s play, The Dilemma of a Ghost, was one of those foundational African Literature texts that you couldn’t go through school in my time without reading. It had a profound impact on me. There is a direct line of influence between The Dilemma of a Ghost and my short story, “Night Market.” Prof. Aidoo was singular among her generation for her focus on the legacy of the Slave Trade for people of African descent, on the continent and in the diaspora.

The first time I interviewed her, in 2010, she told me her manner of tying her headscarf had long elicited comments in her native Ghana for its similarity with Yoruba women’s style. That tickled me. We didn’t take selfies in those days, but once she knew you, she knew you. In the succeeding years she related with me like she had known me all my life. No doubt many writers and feminists of my generation felt the same warmth emanating from her. Her embrace of us, the delight and affirmation we felt in her presence. “The dream of getting along with mother, the dream of getting along with daughter,” as Kate Millett put it. Alice Walker might have called it our mother’s garden where the creative force had made a place for us.

Ama Ata Aidoo called us to courage, to greater imaginative expression; she spoke truth without malice, she had a disarming wit, her passion sometimes moved her to tears. She gave all in her work, which will speak and teach down the ages, for she was indeed a teacher. She was more embracing of new ideas than some younger thinkers. Above all, she loved us. It consoles me to think that she also knew, that we loved her. I will miss her. It has been one of the great honors of my life to have known her.

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