This is the first of our ‘Focus on African Feminists Series’ where we’ll be featuring the works of two African feminists weekly. Our goal is to share some of what African Feminists around the globe are doing and have done, in the hopes of connecting our struggles and our movements. The series kicks off with a focus on feminist writers and this week we are featuring two Ghanaian writers: Abema Busia and Ama Ata Aidoo.
Born in Accra Ghana, Professor Abena Busia grew up in exile, after her family left the country as a result of a coup de’ etat. She has lived in Holland, Mexico and in Oxford. Through her travels in America and in Europe, she grew an interest in the lives of African descendants living on those continents. Her experience of living on three continents informs her writing.
Busia’s 1990 poetry collection, ‘Testimonies of Exile’ is a reflection of multiple experiences of people living in exile. She also has another poetry collection to her name, ‘Traces of a Life’ (2008).
Whilst in England, she completed her B.A. in English Language and Literature at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, in 1976, and a D.Phil in Social Anthropology (Race Relations) at St. Antony’s College in 1984. She has been an external tutor at Ruskin College, the Labour Relations College affiliated to the University of Oxford, and a visiting lecturer in the Program of African and Afro-American Studies at Yale University.
Profesor Busia, is former Director of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD), current Chair of Women’s and Gender Studies and Associate Professor of English, and Comparative Literature, at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, where she has taught since 1981. She is co-director and co-editor of the groundbreaking Women Writing Africa Project, a multi-volume anthology published by the Feminist Press at CUNY. She has co-edited ‘Theorizing Black Feminisms’ (1993) as well as many articles and book chapters on topics including black women’s writing, black feminist criticism, and African literature.
A receiver of a number of post-doctoral fellowships, she has been part of the Andrew Mellon Fellowship in the English department of Bryn Mawr College, and Institute for American Cultures Fellowship at the Center for Afro-American Studies at Institute of American Cultures (UCLA)
Born to Chief Nana Yaw Fama and Maame Abba as Christina Ama Ata Aidoo in colonial Ghana, she was the daughter of royalty. Aidoo was a princess among the Fanti people from a town in south central region of Ghana.
She attend the Wesley Girls High School in the southern seaport town of Cape Coast, Ghana. She went on to study at the University of Ghana, beginning in 1961. It was during this time that Aidoo started her writing that made a name for her. She completed two plays and a collection of short stories. Aidoo shared with the BBC that winning a poetry writing competition at only 15 was a strong affirmation for her as a writer. In 1964, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. For the next two years, Aidoo continued at the University of Ghana, as a research fellow at the Institute of African Studies at the University
In 1965, she published one of her most famous writings, ‘The Dilemma of a Ghost’, which won her early recognition. Aidoo’s works of fiction particularly deal with the tension between Western and African world views. In most of her writing, women are protagonists who defy the stereotypical women’s roles of their time.
In 1977, she published her first novel, ‘Our Sister Killjoy’. Her other novel, ‘Changes’ won the 1992 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Africa). One of her two poetry collections, ‘Someone Talking to Sometime’ won the Nelson Mandela Prize for Poetry in 1987. Aidoo has also written several children’s books. She contributed the piece “To be a woman” to the 1984 anthology ‘Sisterhood Is Global: The International Women’s Movement Anthology’, edited by Robin Morgan. She edited the 2006 anthology, ‘African Love Stories’.
In 1974 she became a consulting professor to the Phelps-Stokes Fund’s Ethnic Studies Program and also received a creative writing fellowship to Stanford University in California where she has also worked.
For 18 months, Aidoo was Minister of Education after she was appointed to the post in 1982. She resigned after realising that it was difficult to achieve her aim of making education freely accessible to all. A year later, she relocated to Zimbabwe where she worked as a consultant for creative writing for nine years.
In 2000 she founded the Mbaasem Foundation, a non-governmental organization based in Ghana with a mission “to support the development and sustainability of African women writers and their artistic output”.
Aidoo runs the foundation together with her daughter Kinna Likimani and a board of management. She is an accomplished writer whose profound work can be seen in her novels, poetry collections, short stories and essays.
Main image taken from www.tahrirnews.com