Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Preparing to Teach a Seminar on Ama Ata Aidoo

When my Department asked me to teach, next spring, a seminar on West African Literature, I thought about various options. I have taught the works of a number of West African writers, such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Sembene Ousmane, Mariama Ba, Ama Ata Aidoo, Ben Okri and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I have even, several times, taught an advanced course on Soyinka.

This time, however, I thought of doing something different, something I have not done before: a seminar on Ama Ata Aidoo, a writer who has been producing work from the mid sixties, in drama and fiction, and has continued to create.

Nobody would be surprised if someone offered a seminar, on, say, Ayi Kwei Armah, Achebe, or Kofi Awoonor. But a seminar on woman writer seemed out of the ordinary. Yet, there are such writers, including Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta. I therefore thought Ama Ata Aidoo would be an appropriate choice and a great learning experience for me and for the students.

In the late sixties, as a secondary school student in Tanzania, I enjoyed the short stories of Ama Ata Aidoo. I still remember, for example, the story-telling skills she displays in her "In the Cutting of a Drink." Even as a young reader, I found this story fabulous.

I have taught several of Aidoo's works, especially The Dilemma of a Ghost, which I find profound in its exploration of the differences and tensions between Africans and African Americans. I have also taught her other play, Anowa and her novel Our Sister Killjoy.

I look forward to trying to place Ama Ata Aidoo in the context of the last several decades of African writing in English, and in the context of African women's writing.