To launch Ghanaian Literature Week, which Kinna is hosting, I’ve started by reading an interview with Ama Ata Aidoo.

It’s part of a collection in Writing Across Worlds: Contemporary Writers Talk (Routledge, 2004).

There are quite a few interviews of interest, but this week I only have eyes for Ama Ata Aidoo on these pages.

She was interviewed by Nana Wilson-Tagoe, and I can’t help but wonder if the interview was a little uncomfortable, especially after the second question.

That came right after the interviewer was discussing the roles in her play, Anowa, the fact that there didn’t seem to be any “rigid polarities between men’s roles and women’s roles” therein.

And here is the question Nana Wilson-Tagoe asks: “So was there anything about your understanding of gender in Akan society which made you envisage this view of fluidity?”

And how does Ama Ata Aidoo respond?

“Really, shame on you!”

See, there had to be an uncomfortable moment there, right? ::grin::

But she does explain. “As an Akan yourself you shouldn’t be asking me this question! I mean this is the background against which we all grew up. Akan society is matrilineal and that is a major departure.”

She goes on to explain the difference between matrilineal and matriarchal.

“Matrilineal as in the simple business of the inheritance of material wealth and who matters: your grandfather or your grandmother; and within the Akan soceity it’s your grandmother.”

This is just a few lines in the interview, in which she also discusses the differences between her characters in her novel Changes (one she likes more than the other), her feeling that it’s impossible to separate out politics from story-telling (it’s just always there), her favourite literature teacher, and her beloved school library.

As a reader coming to Ama Ata Aidoo’s voice for the first time, this interview is an intriguing (though short, less than ten pages in total) introduction.

I have a copy of Changes here: should I take the plunge?

(Nathalie: I know you’re pushing for Our Sister Killjoy: anyone else in that camp?)