Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Ghana Independence, International Women's Day & Ama Ata Aidoo (A Review)


Oooh, March really is a busy month! Today is International Women's Day, two days ago it was Ghana Independence, and on Sunday it's Mother's day in the UK! I couldn't possibly choose what to base this blog post on, so I thought I'd go combine two of this month's themes and focus on a woman writer from Ghana.

Please allow me to introduce you to Ama Ata Aidoo (whose birthday is also in the month of March). If you are a regular frequenter of this blog, you'd know I constantly rave about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who is a Nigerian author. But when it comes to Ghanaian authors, Ama Ata Aidoo definitely deserves all the accolades.

Born in Ghana's central region in the 1940's, Aidoo is a writer whose scope of work includes novels, poetry and plays. She was the first Ghanaian woman to have her work published in the western world. She is also a former Minister of Education.

My friend, Adomah gifted me my first Aidoo novel, Changes. Changes explores  the many themes that challenge women in Ghanaian society. To give a brief overview, the book tells the story of Esi, whose marriage to her husband Oko is fast deteriorating. Esi is a career woman, and her commitment to her job often leaves her husband Oko, and their daughter feeling abandoned. One day, Oko forces himself on her, and this marks the final nail in the coffin for their marriage. What is most compelling is that she discovers there is no accurate word in her local dialect to describe what her husband has done to her. 
(Can we please take a moment to ponder this. The fact that there is no word for 'rape' in many Ghanaian dialects (I am not sure about all) suggests that for a long time, Ghanaian society never considered rape to be a thing that exists.)



Esi finally finds comfort in the arms of Ali, a charming Muslim man (she's Christian) from a different tribe to hers, and she's swept off her feet. They eventually fall in love and get married, and she becomes his second wife. By choosing to keep her home, and not move in with Ali and his first wife, Esi has the freedom she's always desired. But a supposedly perfect union eventually breaks down as Ali becomes more and more distant, she becomes increasingly dependent on his affection, and his visits to her house become fewer and further between. Their love eventually grinds to a halt. Poor Esi. Is she able to overcome the dilemmas of a society so steeped in patriarchy, and lacking in everything she requires to be happy?

So as you see, the book touches on all things to do with women's issues: independence, gender roles, the career vs home struggle, rape, sex, polygamy, inter-ethnic marriage, divorce, and so much more. Changes is described as an affront to society and its complexities, and is herald as the African feminist novel. This is one of my favourite books - sympathetically written and compelling until the end. I personally was at first annoyed at Esi for not being more mindful of her marriage but then was upset for her after her rape. There are other characters in the book who are all representations of the judgemental, dangerous and cautionary voices many Ghanaian women will hear in their lifetime. 

Like Changes, Ama's other novels focus on the many faces of love, identity and culture and their positions in a post-colonial African context. If you have already read Changes, you may want to pick up African Love Stories, a collection of short stories edited by her. 
I am currently reading The Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa.I will let you know how it goes. Her other books are The Girl Who Can, Our Sister Killjoy and No Sweetness Here

I would like to leave by thanking Ama Ata Aidoo for bringing the Ghanaian struggle to the consciousness of many. Thank you for championing women's rights and confronting the norm.
Happy Ghana Independence Day, Happy International Women's Day, and Happy Birthday in advance Ms. Aidoo!


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4 comments

  1. March is certainly jam packed! Never heard of her but Chimamanda is really good. Happy women day. XO

    http://www.glitsxgrace.com/2018/03/08/my-go-to-playlist/

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    1. Happy intrernational women's day to you too! Many thanks for reading. Hopefully you'll read one of her books some day.

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  2. I've never heard of Ama or her books but you've got me interested! I'm certainly going to pick her stuff up because I need more books about Ghana/my people in my life.

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    1. Oooh, you just have to read one. That is why I blogged about her because we don't make enough noise about our most talented writers. Please let me know how you get on!

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