Ghanaian literary icon Ama Ata Aidoo on Saturday, September 3, walked out of a public event organised in her honour.
Organised by the University of Ghana’s Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CEGENSA), The popular playwright and English professor was visibly upset to discover that her name was misspelt in the event’s booklets and banners. Her middle name, spelt ‘Ata’ was written as ‘Atta’ with an extra T.
Ama Ata Aidoo is a foremost African playwright and the author of such critically acclaimed works like ‘Anowa’ and ‘Dilemma of a Ghost’. Her play, the Dilemma of a Ghost, which was published in 1964, made her the first published African woman dramatist. Aidoo also served as Ghana’s Education Minister under president Jerry Rawlings in 1982.
The event which was held at the African Regent Hotel was part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of CEGENSA and the centre had organised a short story competition to honour Professor Aidoo for her contribution to the growth and development of African women writers and their artistic output.
Reacting to the incident, professor Aidoo’s daughter, Kinna Likimani with whom she runs her Mbaasem Foundation took to her social media page to issue a statement describing the misspelling episode as unfortunate.
My mother walked out of a CEGENSA event today [Saturday] meant to celebrate her and the winners of a short story competition in her honor.
Both the banner (hanging in the hall at the African Regent Hotel) and the programme cover had her name as ‘Ama Atta Aidoo’ and not ‘Ama Ata Aidoo’, which is the correct spelling of her name. This peculiar and contrived confusion over the spelling of her Ata is a uniquely Ghanaian problem. And this sloppiness is even a recent thing. She’s been battling this for a while now, culminating in her walking out of an event in her honor. Of course, she couldn’t have stayed.
I know my mum. She would have felt bad throughout the event. The whole thing is messy. We must really pay more attention to the details of things. It’s more disheartening because CEGENSA is an academic institute. They know her, her name and her work.
Most of Professor Aidoo’s works tend to explore themes related to the inevitable but sometimes uneasy coexistence between western influences and the traditional African value system. Aidoo is a pan-african feminist and an educationist and it is not surprising that the misspelling of her name rubbed her off the wrong way.
Many Africans in the diaspora constantly have to put up with their names being incorrectly pronounced and wrongly spelt even in official circles. Admittedly, a number of people do misspell African names due to genuine ignorance but the vast majority just don’t care enough to make an effort to get it right. It must have felt like double affront to Aidoo to find her own countrymen guilty of the same shoddiness.