Monday, October 6, 2014


“Eee, that man’s daughter was built; we can’t refuse to acknowledge what our eyes are showing us tho! Owiny has brought us such a beautiful girl; a girl who shines like the sun’s eye; who
is as pretty as a copper ornament” ~ Grace Ogot, The Strange Bride (1989)
“When you are frightened, don’t sit still, keep on doing something. The act of doing will give you back your courage.”~ Grace Ogot
Grace Ogot, celebrated Kenyan writer of ethnic Luo origin, accomplished midwife, tutor, journalist and a BBC Overseas Service broadcaster and the first woman to publish a novel in East Africa and second in Africa after Nigeria`s Flora Nwapa.

Grace Emily Akinyi Ogot  (born May 15, 1930) is a celebrated Kenyan writer of ethnic Luo origin credited for being the first African woman writer in English to be published with two short stories in 1962 and 1964. Ogot was not only an author  and the first woman to have fiction published by the East African Publishing House, but an accomplished midwife, tutor, journalist and a BBC Overseas Service broadcaster. Grace Ogot was a founding member of the Writers' Association of Kenya.
As a woman known widely for her anthologized short stories and novels, Ogot`s first novel The Promised Land (1966) was published in the same year as Flora Nwapa's Efuru and deals with the subject of migration. Her stories—which appeared in European and African journals such as Black Orpheus and Transition and in collections such as Land Without Thunder (1968), The Other Woman (1976), and The Island of Tears (1980)—give an inside view of traditional Luo life and society and the conflict of traditional with colonial and modern cultures. Her novel The Promised Land (1966) tells of Luo pioneers in Tanzania and western Kenya.
Grace Emily Akinyi Ogot earned a distinctive position in Kenya's literary and political history. The best known writer in East Africa, and with a varied career background, she became in 1984 one of only a handful of women to serve as a member of Parliament and the only woman assistant minister in the cabinet of President Daniel Arap Moi.

Valentina Tereshkova and Grace Ogot. Chairman of the Committee of Soviet Women, and Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova (born 1937, left) meeting with Kenyan writer and politician Grace Ogot (born 1934). Tereshkova was the first woman in space, making her only flight on the Vostok 6 mission of 16-19 June 1963. Photographed in Moscow, Russia, on 1st July 1971.

Ogot has also published three volumes of short stories, as well as a number of works in Dholuo. Her attitude towards language is similar to that of her fellow Kenyan, Ngugi wa Thiong'o's, but until recently her writing has not received the critical appraisal bestowed on Ngugi's writings. Her writing style is splendid in its evocation of vivid imagery; she captures the formalities of traditional African interpersonal exchanges, governed by protocol and symbolism. Indeed, Grace Ogot can undoubtedly be said to be one of Africa’s finest writers.
Ogot also worked as a scriptwriter and an announcer for the British Broadcasting Corporation’s East African Service, as a headmistress, as a community development officer in Kisumu, and as an Air India public relations officer. She appeared on Voice of Kenya radio and television and as a columnist in View Point in the East African Standard. In 1959 Grace Akinyi married the historian Bethwell Ogot of Kenya.
Ogot was born Grace Emily Akinyi to a Christian family on 15 May 1930 in Asembo, in the district of Nyanza, Kenya – a village highly populated by the predominately Christian Luo ethnic group. Her father, Joseph Nyanduga, was one of the first men in the village of Asembo to obtain a Western education. He converted early on to the Anglican Church, and taught at the Church Missionary Society’s Ng’iya Girls’ School. From her father, Ogot learned the stories of the Old Testament and it was from her grandmother that Ogot learned the traditional folk tales of the area from which she would later draw inspiration.
Emerging from the promised land in the anthills of the Savannah, Ogot attended the Ng’iya Girls’ School and Butere High School throughout her youth. From 1949 to 1953, Grace Ogot trained as a nurse at the Nursing Training Hospital in Uganda. She later worked in London, England, at the St. Thomas Hospital for Mothers and Babies. She returned to the African nursing profession in 1958, working at the Maseno Hospital, run by the Church Missionary Society in Kisumu County in Kenya. Following this, Ogot worked at Makerere University College in Student Health Services.
In addition to her experience in healthcare, Ogot gained experience in multiple different areas, working for the BBC Overseas Service as a script-writer and announcer on the program "London Calling East and Central Africa", operating a prominent radio program in the Luo language, working as an officer of community development in Kisumu County and as a public relations officer for the Air India Corporation of East Africa.
Grace Ogot

In 1975, Ogot worked as a Kenyan delegate to the general assembly of the United Nations. Subsequently, in 1976, she became a member of the Kenyan delegation to UNESCO. That year, she chaired and helped found the Writers' Association of Kenya. In 1983 she became one of only a handful of women to serve as a member of parliament and the only woman assistant minister in the cabinet of then President Daniel arap Moi.
In 1959, Grace Ogot married the professor and historian Professor Bethwell Allan Ogot, a Luo from Gem Location, and later became the mother of four children. Her proclivity towards story-telling and her husband's interest in the oral tradition and history of the Luo peoples would later be combined together in her writing career.
In 1962, Grace Ogot read her story "A Year of Sacrifice" at a conference on African Literature at Makere University in Uganda. After discovering that there was no other work presented or displayed from East African writers, Ogot became motivated to publish her works. Subsequently, she began to publish short stories both in the Luo language and in English. "The Year of Sacrifice" (later retitled "The Rain Came") was published in the African journal Black Orpheus in 1963 and in 1964, the short story “Ward Nine” was published in the journal Transition. Grace Ogot's first novel The Promised Land was published in 1966 and focused on Luo emigration and the problems that arise through migration. Set in the 1930s, her main protagonists emigrate from Nyanza to northern Tanzania, in search of fertile land and wealth. It also focused on themes of tribal hatred, materialism, and traditional notions of femininity and wifely duties. 1968 saw the publishing of Land Without Thunder, a collection of short stories set in ancient Luoland. Ogot's descriptions, literary tools, and storylines in Land Without Thunder offer a valuable insight into Luo culture in pre-colonial East Africa. Her other works include The Strange Bride, The Graduate, The Other Woman and The Island of Tears.
Many of her stories are set against the scenic background of Lake Victoria and the traditions of the Luo people. One theme that features prominently within Ogot's work is the importance of traditional Luo folklore, mythologies, and oral traditions. This theme is at the forefront in "The Rain Came", a tale which was related to Ogot in her youth by her grandmother, whereby a chief's daughter must be sacrificed to bring rain. Furthermore, much of Ogot’s short stories juxtapose traditional and modern themes and notions, demonstrating the conflicts and convergences that exist between the old ways of thought and the new. In The Promised Land, the main character, Ochola, falls under a mysterious illness which cannot be cured through medical intervention. Eventually, he turns to a medicine man to be healed. Ogot explains such thought processes as exemplary of the blending of traditional and modern understandings, “Many of the stories I have told are based on day-to-day life… And in the final analysis, when the Church fails and the hospital fails, these people will always slip into something they trust, something within their own cultural background. It may appear to us mere superstition, but those who do believe in it do get healed. In day-to-day life in some communities in Kenya, both the modern and the traditional cures coexist.”
Another theme that often appears throughout Ogot’s works is that of womanhood and the female role. Throughout her stories, Ogot demonstrates an interest in family matters, revealing both traditional and modern female gender roles followed by women, especially within the context of marriage and Christian traditions. Such an emphasis can be seen in The Promised Land, in which the notions both of mothers as the ultimate protectors of their children and of dominant patriarchal husband-wife relationships feature heavily. Critics such as Maryse Conde have suggested that Ogot's emphasis on the importance of the female marital role, as well as her portrayal of women in traditional roles, creates an overwhelmingly patriarchal tone in her stories. However, others have suggested that women in Ogot’s works also demonstrate strength and integrity, as in “The Empty Basket”, where the bravery of the main female character, Aloo, is contrasted by the failings of the male characters. Though her wits and self-assertion, Aloo overcomes a perilous situation with a snake, whilst the men are stricken by panic. It is only after she rebukes and shames the men that they are roused to destroy the snake. In Ogot’s short stories, the women portrayed often have a strong sense of duty, as demonstrated in “The Rain Came”, and her works regularly emphasise the need for understanding in relationships between men and women.
Prior to Kenyan Independence, while Kenya was still under a Colonial regime, Ogot experienced difficulties in her initial attempts to have her stories published, stating, "I remember taking some of my short stories to the manager [of the East African Literature Bureau], including the one which was later published in Black Orpheus. They really couldn't understand how a Christian woman could write such stories, involved with sacrifices, traditional medicines and all, instead of writing about Salvation and Christianity. Thus, quite a few writers received no encouragement from colonial publishers who were perhaps afraid of turning out radical writers critical of the colonial regime."
She was interviewed in 1974 by Lee Nichols for a Voice of America radio broadcast that was aired between 1975–1979 (Voice of America radio series Conversations with African writers, no. 23). The Library of Congress has a copy of the broadcast tape and the unedited original interview. The broadcast transcript appears in the book Conversations with African Writers (Washington, D.C.: Voice of America, 1981), p. 207–216.
Ogot’s family members shared her interest in politics. Her husband, served as head of Kenya Railways and also taught history at Kenyatta University. Her older sister, Rose Orondo, served on the Kisumu County Council for several terms, and her younger brother Robert Jalango was elected to Parliament in 1988, representing their family home in Asembo.

*Ber wat (1981) in Luo.
*The Graduate, Nairobi: Uzima Press, 1980.
*The Island of Tears (short stories), Nairobi: Uzima Press, 1980.
*Land Without Thunder; short stories, Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1968.
*Miaha (in Luo), 1983; translated as The Strange Bride by Okoth Okombo (1989)
*The Other Woman: selected short stories, Nairobi: Transafrica, 1976.
*The Promised Land: a novel, Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1966.
*The Strange Bride translated from Dholuo (originally published as Miaha, 1983) by Okoth Okombo, Nairobi: Heinemann Kenya, 1989.


Days of Grace Ogot as a woman of culture and letters
           By Prof Chris Wanjala, Nairobi, January 6 2013
Hon Grace Akinyi Ogot  is woman who has powerfully influenced East Africa’s  literary narrative and played a public role not only in medicine and community development but also in the country and parliamentary politics.  She and her husband, Professor Bethwell Allan Ogot, have not only brought up a brilliant family, but they have stood by each other to foster creative and scholarly writing in our region. All the people who remember the sterling role of the East Africa Journal and its literary supplement which ran for decades as a publication of the East African Publishing remember the debates that characterized that publication. They will remember the well- documented polemics raised by the like of Okot p’Bitek, Taban lo Liyong, and Ngugi  wa Thiong’o. Grace Ogot’s own short story, Island of Tears, which followed the tragic demise of Hon. Thomas Joseph Mboya, was published in one of the issues of the East Africa Journal.
 Dr Grace Ogot (right) presents a land title deed and other documents relating to the Odera Akang’o campus of Moi University to the Higher Education minister, Prof Hellen Sambili, during a ceremony to hand over the campus to Moi University. Looking on is the Moi University Chancellor, Prof Bethwel Ogot, Dr Ogot’s husband. File
Dr Grace Ogot (right) presents a land title deed and other documents relating to the Odera Akang’o campus of Moi University to the then Higher Education minister, Prof Hellen Sambili, during a ceremony to hand over the campus to Moi University. Looking on is the Moi University Chancellor, Prof Bethwel Ogot, Dr Ogot’s husband.

Grace Akinyi Ogot has now published the story of her life entitled “Days of My Life: An Autobiography.“ Anyange Press Limited  based in Kisumu City are the publishers of the 325 page account which traces Grace Ogot’s origin to Joseph Nyanduga, the mission boy who grew up in Nyanza, and after being orphaned sought his fortune in Mombasa where he was a locomotive driver, and Rahel  Ogori, a mission girl. Nyanduga and Ogori were Christian converts and evangelists who defied the conservative Luo mores and traditions to chart out their lives and the lives of their children. There is a way in which the couple sacrificed a lot to deny themselves a working life in Mombasa to promote Christianity in Nyanza in the best manner possible. It is apparent in this story that when African cultures went against the practical existence of the couple, they defied them and went on with their lives as they thought best. There are, however, instances where Christianity, threatened their existence. In a manner of speaking, they modified conservative aspects of Christianity and went on with their lives.
Perhaps the best examples of their existential choices are there in the manner in which Joseph Nyanduga built his own home as a newly married man, away from his parents. The procedure of establishing one’s dala (home) away from one’s parents according to the Luo culture is explained in Grace Ogot’s novel, The Promised Land (1966). Joseph Nyanduga, however, goes against all the grain, acquires an education, travels to Mombasa where he is employed and when he feels the urge to evangelize among his people, he cuts short his career and returns home in Nyanza.
Days of My Life is a well-told story by one of Africa’s internationally acclaimed prose writer; it places the author in a unique position as far as the recent spate of autobiographies by erstwhile and practicing politicians in this country is concerned. It is the story of a woman who rises from the humble background of missionary life to soar high in the ranks of hospital nurses in Kenya, Uganda, and the United Kingdom. She goes against all the odds of racial prejudice among the colonial minority who did not expect Africans to excel in Medicine, and treats fellow Africans who are patients in her hands as respectable creatures against all the brutal practices where white health workers discriminated against their African patients. She has the best training in England and comes to work at Maseno Mission Hospital and Mulago hospital, Kampala. She is appointed Principal of a Homecraft Training Centre, becomes a councilor, a church leader, a business woman, and leading politician in the Moi era.
The book goes into the author’s education in colonial Kenya, revealing her leadership qualities, her high moral values, and her ability to learn new local languages. But perhaps the most instructive thing about the book is the strength of the love between Grace and the man she married. Throughout the account is the sobriety of their relationship and the way it informed her career development including writing. Their marriage was preceded by a protracted courtship period and an exchange of lengthy love letters. She had come from a background of strong story telling tradition which merged with her husband’s interest in oral history. He was then researching the history of the southern Luo drawing heavily from oral traditions. He readily appreciated her as a writer and pointed out the poetry in her letters to him. As the editor of Ghala: the Literary Supplement of the East Africa Journal he became one of early East African intellectuals to encourage her as a writer.
Mrs Ogot comments generously on her parents, relatives, members of the protestant church to which she belongs, her siblings and her fellow writers and literary intellectuals. There are stylistic flaws and errors of fact, dates, and even information on people, events and places in the book. Per Wastberg , the current Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Literature is a man. He has done a lot of work for African literature in Europe and Africa. But Grace Ogot writes: “In March 1961, I received a letter from a Swedish lady – a Miss Wastberg – author and journalist. She was on a tour of East Africa. In her letter, she told me that she was editing an anthology of African writing for publication in Sweden later that year. She had failed to discover any authors in East Africa. Eighteen countries in Africa would be represented in her book. She had heard from several people at Makerere University College, including Gerald Moore (a literary critic).”    
 The book is courageous and strong on politics and public administration of Nyanza Province and the entire country during the so-called Nyayo Era. It gives background information on assassinations on politicians in Nyanza and some of the people she replaced in her constituency.  She gives accounts of how she and her husband went through a lot of pain to have access to President Moi in order to organize fund-raising meetings to develop her constituency. The book however shows how she badly let down writers and thespians as Assistant Minister for Culture and Social Services. She never worked to improve the working climate of the Kenya Cultural Centre in general and the Kenya National Theatre in particular.

Prof Chris Wanjala is chairman of Literature Department, University of Nairobi and National Book Development Council of Kenya.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


"Mother, I cannot stay any more. A man said that
he has wept for the death that killed his friend
but he did not wish that death to kill him." ~ Flora Nwapa, Efuru (1966)
Flora Nwapa, Africa`s first woman novelist, teacher, administrator

Professor Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa (13 January 1931 – 16 October 1993) known to her native Nigerian ndi-Igbo people as Ogbuefi Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa-Nwakuche  and the world as Flora Nwapa was a great Nigerian writer (novelist), teacher, administrator, and a forerunner of a whole generation of African women writers. Flora Nwapa is best-known for re-creating Igbo life and traditions from a woman's viewpoint. With Efuru (1966) Nwapa became black Africa's first internationally published female novelist in the English language. She has been called the mother of modern African literature. Flora Nwapa described Flora in “Women and Creative Writing in Africa” about how she came to write Efuru that she enjoyed direct contact with
her culture and tradition and Efuru was actually based on her early exposure to folklore which was a direct personal contact with Oguta Lake which was near her birth place. She writes:
"…the story of Efuru struck me in a most dramatic
way as I was driving at a speed of 80 miles per
hour along Enugu-Onitsha Road. I got to my
destination, borrowed an exercise book and began
to write Efuru’s story. I wrote chapter one … and
did not stop until I finished the entire novel.(526)
She was a contemporary of the legendary Ghanaian playwright Dr Efua Theodora Sutherland (27 June 1924—2 January 1996) who published her first literary work 'Foriwa' (1962), and others such as Edufa (1967), and The Marriage of Anansewa (1975).
She also is known for her governmental work in reconstruction after the Biafran War. In particular she worked with orphans and refugees that where displaced during the war. Further she worked as a publisher of African literature and promoted women in African society.
What is not known, however, is that by putting the children of of Ogbuide into print, Nwapa who is also a poet, short story writer, and children's author was able to tell her own story, and release her own anxieties and feelings of disenchantment with a society that :destroys its gifted females." Flora Nwapa`s women -centered text evolve from the myth of Ogbuide - the female deity of Oguta people- who symbolizes beauty, wealth, power, and self-fulfillment for her children, especially the women.
Flora Nwapa: Black Africa’s first female novelist
For Nwapa ability to write implied a measure of autonomy, an ability to shun passivity and acquiescence in the face of mistreatment and injustice. Writing also enable Nwapa to exercise some control over the circumstances of her life. Her books explore frustrations associated with love and sexuality, they emphasize simultaneously the individual and the collective nature of personal relationships. This intermingling of the private and public, personal and political, is present in most of her novels. Themes of female empowerment, male-female relationships, sexual abandonment, culture-conflict, as well as expressions of female desire and sexuality, and hope reflect the pulse of Ugwuta women`s lives.
Criticism of her work is often influenced by feminist politics because of the woman-centered nature of her fiction. Her work holds an important place in feminist discourse but has also garnered attention for its literary merits.
She herself said "When I do write about women in Nigeria, in Africa, I try to paint a positive picture about women because there are many women who are very, very positive in their thinking, who are very, very independent, and very, very industrious." (from an interview with Marie Umeh, 1995).Nigerian novelist).
When Nwapa died on October 16, 1993, the late Nigerian-Ogoni environmentalist, writer and activist, Kenule "Ken"Saro-Wiwa, in paying tribute to her at the funeral said, “Flora is gone and we all have to say adieu. But she left behind an indelible mark. No one will ever write about Nigerian literature in English without mentioning her. She will always be the departure point for female writing in Africa. And African publishing will forever owe her a debt. But above all, her contribution to the development of women in Nigeria, nay in Africa, and throughout the world is what she will be best remembered for.”
Florence Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa was born in 13 January 1931 at Oguta, an igbo town in eastern Nigeria, which was then a British colony. Both of her parents, Christopher Ijeoma and Martha Nwapa, were teachers. She was educated at the University of Idaban, receiving her B.A. in 1957. Nwapa continued her studies in England, earning in 1958 a degree in education from the University of Edinburgh.
After returning to Nigeria in 1959 Nwapa worked as an education officer in Calabar for a short time, and then she taught geography and English at Queen's School in Enugu. From 1962 to 1964 Nwapa was an assistant registrar at the University of Lagos. During the Nigerian Civil war, which broke out in 1967, she left Lagos with her family. Like many members of the Igbo elite, they were forced to to return to the eastern region after the end of the conflict. Nwapa served as Minister for Health and Social Welfare for the East Central State (1970-1971). Her tasks included finding homes for 2000 war orphans. Later on she worked for Commissioner for Lands, Survey, and Urban Development (1971-1974). In 1982 the Nigerian government bestowed on her one of the country's highest honors, the OON (Order of Niger). By her own town, Oguta, she was awarded the highest chieftaincy title, Ogbuefi meaning “killer of cow”, which is usually reserved for men of achievement.
Besides writing books, Nwapa established Tana Press, which published adult fiction. It was the first indigenous publishing house owned by a black African woman in West Africa. Between 1979 and 1981 she produced eight volumes of adult fiction. Nwapa set up also another publishing company, Flora Nwapa and Co., which specialized in children's fiction. In these books she combined Nigerian elements with general moral and ethical teachings. As a business woman, she also encouraged with her own example to break the traditional female roles of wife/mother and strive for equality in society. However, Nwapa did not call herself a feminist but a "womanist," a term coined by the American writer Alice Walker in her collection of essays, In Search of My Mother's Garden: Womanist Prose (1983). As well as being a distinguished member of PEN International and the Commonwealth Writer’s Awards committee, she was also the President of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). In 1989, she was made a Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Maiduguri and remained so till her death.
Appearing in 1966, Flora Nwapa`s  Efuru was the first internationally published book, in English, by a Nigerian woman. Efuru is based on an old folktale of a woman chosen by gods, but challenged the traditional portrayal of women. Efuru, which Nwapa started to write in 1962. The Promised Land by the Kenyan Grace Ogot appeared also in 1966; both works were path-breakers. Nwapa sent to manuscript to her good friend Chinua Achebe in Lagos and after some editorial suggestions, Achebe sent it to Heineman Educational Books for publication in the African Writers Series (No. 56). Nwapa sets her story in a small village in colonial West Africa as she describes the youth, marriage, motherhood, and eventual personal epiphany of a young woman in rural Nigeria. The respected and beautiful protagonist, an independent-minded Ibo woman named Efuru, wishes to be a mother. Her eventual tragedy is that she is not able to marry or raise children successfully. Alone and childless, Efuru realizes she surely must have a higher calling and goes to the lake goddess of her tribe, Uhamiri, to discover the path she must follow.
The work, a rich exploration of Nigerian village life and values, offers a realistic picture of gender issues in a patriarchal society as well as the struggles of a nation exploited by colonialism.
The novel has at its core fundamental feminist concepts like women's agency, women's empowerment, sisterhood and gender equality. However, in an interview by Marie Umeh in 1993, Flora Nwapa refused to be called a feminist; she said, "I don't even accept that I'm a feminist. I accept that I'm an ordinary woman who is writing about what she knows. I try to project the image of women positively." (Umeh  27). By looking at her novels which include in addition to Efuru, Idu (1970), Never Again (1975), One is Enough (1981), and Women are Different (1986), one can see that Nwapa is a writer who dedicated her efforts to discuss women's issues of struggle, quest for independence and success in their native patriarchal Igbo culture. However, she did not call herself a feminist writer because, in my viewpoint, her writings do not qualify in the Western criteria of feminism to be called feminist. The concept of feminism as a movement and a school of thought seemed to exclude the black woman from its agenda. Thus, in order for a work of art to be considered feminist, it must, according to the Western criteria, abide by a set of rules, and to mention some, these can be like showing the rebellion of women towards their own cultures and traditions and showing how they refuse to succumb to patriarchal practices and attempt to overthrow the whole hierarchy.
 Nwapa's second novel, Idu (1970), was also a story about a woman, whose life is bound up with that of her husband. When he dies, she choices to seek him out in the land of dead rather than live without him or prefer motherhood to anything else. The critical reception was mainly hostile. Eustace Palmer in African Literature Today and Eldred Jones in The Journal of Commonwealth Literature compared it with Elechi Amadi's The Concubine (1966), also published in the African Writersn series (No. 25), but not in Nwapa's favour. The war novel, Never Again (1975), drew its material from the Nigerian Civil War (see also Chinua Achebe's Beware, Soul Brother, 1971, a collection of poems, and Elechi Amadi's Sunset in Biafra, 1979). The protagonist, Kate, who starts as a supporter of the Biafran cause, ends struggling simply to survive. Wives at War, and Other Stories (1980) dealt with the Biafran conflict.
Nwapa wrote short stories, poetry and children's books, such as Mummywater (1979), which brought to life a water deity - the water goddess Ogbuide or Uhamiri appeared also in her adult fiction; Mummywata was her westernized Igbo counterpart. A central theme in her fiction was childlessness, from her early novels to Women Are Different (1986), in which her four major female characters choose between such options as self actualization in their career and the marriage institution, life in the town and in the country. "Her generation was telling the men, that there are different ways of living one's life fully and fruitfully," one of the women concludes. "They have a choice, a choice to marry and have children, a choice to marry or divorce their husband. Marriage is not THE only way." Noteworthy, spinsterhood without children is not a positive option and Nwapa never had the interest to deal with the theme of lesbianism.
Flora Nwapa died on October 16, 1993 in Enugu, Nigeria. Until her death she was a visiting professor and lecturer at numerous colleges in the U.S. and Nigeria. Nwapa was married to Chief Gogo Nwakuche, a business man; they had three children. She remained Nwakuche's first wife, although he took other wives. Because she wanted her children to have a father, she did not leave or divorce him. At the time of her death, Nwapa had completed The Lake Goddess, her final novel, entrusting the manuscript to the Jamaican Chester Mills. This work focused on the lake goddess Mammy Water, the eternal spring and mythical inspirer of Nwapa's fiction. Legends tell that the fairy godmother has her adobe on the bottom of Oguta Lake, near the author's birthplace.


Friday, October 3, 2014


"Being a woman writer, I would be deceiving myself if I said I write completely through the eye of a man. There's nothing bad in it, but that does not make me a feminist writer. I hate that name. The tag is from the Western world - like we are called the Third World." ~Buchi Emecheta

Africa’s most acclaimed female novelist, children's writer, screenplay writer, and autobiographer.  She is the author of  Second-Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977) The Joys of Motherhood (1979), Destination Biafra (1982), and Double Yoke (1982)

Florence Onye Buchi Emecheta OBE (born July 21, 1944, Lagos, Nigeria), is one of Africa’s most
acclaimed female novelist, children's writer, screenplay writer, and autobiographer. The Britain-based writer, Buchi who is from the highly workaholic, resourceful, intelligent, creative cum intellectual ethnic Anioma people -a sub-group of the larger ndi-Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria, is among the most important female authors to emerge from post-colonial Africa.
Emecheta was married at age 16 and immigrated with her husband to London in 1962. The problems she encountered in London during the early 1960s provided background for the books that are called her immigrant novels. It has been said that "of all the women writers in contemporary African literature Buchi Emecheta of Nigeria has been the most sustained and vigorous voice of direct feminist protest (Lloyd Wellesley Brown, Women Writers in Black Africa (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981). While the genesis of African and Nigerian women’s literature began with Flora Nwapa, second generation Nigerian woman writer Buchi Emecheta’s works have created a milestone in African literature. Buchi Emecheta’s life is as exemplarily as her resilient, strong womanist characters.

Buchi whose legacy has created a path of inspiration for contemporary African and Nigerian women writers has published over 20 books, including Second-Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977) The Joys of Motherhood (1979), Destination Biafra (1982), and Double Yoke (1982). Emecheta’s works deal with the portrayal of the African woman and the main characters of her novels show what it means to be a woman and mother in Nigerian and British society. Many of her books are semi-autobiographical. Although most of her realistic novels are set in Africa and explore Emecheta’s favourite themes, but, perhaps her strongest work, The Rape of Shavi (1983), which is also the most difficult to categorize and set in an imaginary idyllic African kingdom. Emecheta also wrote an autobiography, Head Above Water (1986), and several works of children’s and juvenile fiction.
As a result of her creative literary prowess that covers the themes of child slavery, motherhood, female independence and freedom through education , Emecheta has won a considerable number of awards, acclaims(accolades) and honors internationally. She won New Statesman Jock Campbell Award for 'The Slave Girl"1979, named as one of Granta′s "Best of the Young British Novelists" in 1983. Emecheta as a "championed activist writer, and as the most prolific writer of African descent in Britain" was the featured author on the cover of Sable LitMag’s official launch issue in 2005. She was bestowed with an honour of Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2005 for her literary achievements in British Literature. Back home in Nigeria she is included in the elite list of both 2011 Who's Who in Anioma and Who's Who in Ibusa, respectively.
Emecheta received a traditional Igbo upbringing and early witnessed tensions between indigenous African culture and urban Western values.  She was orphaned as a young child and raised by extended family, attributes her desire to write to the storytelling of her aunt, “Big Mother.” In her own words, her Big Mother, quite old and nearly blind, told fantastic stories of the family's Igbo ancestors. "We would sit for hours at her feet mesmerized by her trance-like voice," Emecheta recalled in Criticism and Ideology. "Through such stories she could tell the heroic deeds of her ancestors, all our mores and all our customs. She used to tell them in such a way, in such a sing-song way that until I was about fourteen I used to think that these women were inspired by some spirits."
Buchi Emecheta, just like famous Seneglese writer and women`s rights campaigner who wrote the novel "So Long A Letter," is always very defensive and indignant whenever she is referred to as feminist. In fact, Buchi Emecheta states that her type of feminism is an African type of feminism called womanism. Therefore within the African female struggle for self-articulation, empowerment and womanhood is the greater battle to define evolving ideologies and theories, a process which hopefully will be progressively clarified and elucidated. Emecheta rather described her novels as "stories of the world," but from a female perspective, as she told Essence writer Elsie B. Washington "These women face the universal problems of poverty and oppression, and the longer they stay, no matter where they have come from originally, the more the problems become identical."

Buchi Emecheta was born on 21 July 1944, in the Yaba suburb of Lagos State to Igbo parents of Anioma (Igbo sub-ethnic group) extraction. Her father Jeremy Nwabudinke, a railway worker in the 1940s and her beloved mother Alice (Okwuekwuhe) Emecheta were from Ibusa, Delta State, Nigeria. Though her father worked for the railway in Lagos, the spiritual home of the family remained the village of Ibuza, and as a young girl Emecheta traveled back there often--"during the rains, to help on the farm and to learn our ways," she recalled in a paper delivered before the Second African Writers Conference and published in 1988's Criticism and Ideology. Her parents were determined to instill a degree of traditional Igbo values in her, she noted. "If I lived in Lagos I could start to have loose morals and speak Yoruba all the time."
As it was then the norm of the patriarchal Igbo society, the young Buchi Emecheta was initially kept at home while her younger brother was sent to school; but after persuading her parents to consider the benefits of her education, she spent her early childhood at an all-girl's missionary school. Her father died when she was nine years old.
After death of her parents Emecheta stayed with her extended family and was close to her aunt, who was the oldest woman in the family, and in Igbo culture such females hold a place of respect as "Big Mother." During Emecheta's childhood, her Big Mother, quite old and nearly blind, told fantastic stories of the family's Igbo ancestors. "We would sit for hours at her feet mesmerized by her trance-like voice," Emecheta recalled in Criticism and Ideology. "Through such stories she could tell the heroic deeds of her ancestors, all our mores and all our customs. She used to tell them in such a way, in such a sing-song way that until I was about fourteen I used to think that these women were inspired by some spirits."
As if by cosmic plan to make Emecheta a great gift to the world, at the age of 10 and  year later after the death of her father and staying with her extended family, she received a full scholarship to the Methodist Girls School for her uncanny academic excellence. The young Emecheta continued her basic education in this school until the age of 16 where her education was temporary interrupted.
In tandem with the time honored-tradition and custom of ndi-Igbos which make room for betrothal marriage, Emecheta at the age of 16 was married off to Sylvester Onwordi, a student to whom she had been engaged since she was 11 years old.

 Onwordi was a very enterprising young man with focus to further his education and full of desire for adventure to make a living outside of his country. He moved immediately moved to London to attend university after his traditional marriage to Emecheta. As a responsible African husband he  invited his wife, Emecheta to join him in 1962. She gave birth to five children in six years. Unfortunately, their marriage which was then an oasis of peace and happiness transmogrified into a direly unhappy and sometimes violent marriage (as chronicled in her autobiographical writings such as Second-Class Citizen). To keep her sanity, Emecheta wrote in her spare time; though her English language skills were still lacking, she was determined to improve them and begin writing. The birth of five children also kept her from pursuing that goal for a time, and her husband's lack of ambition forced her to work outside the home. She found a job in the library of the British Museum in London as a library officer in 1965 and later became a youth worker with the Inner London Education Authority. In her spare time, Emecheta wrote, but her husband resented her literary aspirations, and he ultimately burned her first manuscript.

By 1966, and at the age of 22 her marriage had disintegrated and she realized that writing might provide a more stable income for her and her children. "I thought I would wait to be as old as Big Mother with a string of degrees before writing," she noted in Criticism and Ideology. "But I had to earn my living and the only thing I could do was write." She therefore enrolled at the University of London, earned a BSc degree in Sociology, and began writing a regular column about the African/London experience for the New Statesman in 1972. Her essays about the culture shock she experienced, her failing marriage, racism in London, and her struggles as a working mother of five and were collected into her first book, 'In the Ditch."  Emecheta's second novel was Second-Class Citizen (Allison and Busby, 1974) was published two years later after "In the Ditch". Here she drew from an earlier period in her life, when her husband was in graduate school but indifferent to his studies and abusive toward her. Both books were eventually published in one volume as Adah's Story (1983).
The Bride Price, third published novel, was actually written in the 1960s. The first of her works to be set in Nigeria, it centers upon a young woman struggling with the cultural traditions that restrict her life in a most cruel way: her father dies when she is thirteen, and her uncle literally inherits her. She is allowed to continue her education but only because it will increase her "bride price," the sum her uncle will receive for contracting her marriage. She falls in love with a teacher, a man from a less exalted family, and elopes with him. A Nigerian superstition warns that such a woman will die in childbirth, and the heroine fulfills this prophecy at the close of The Bride Price.
Emecheta lived in Camden, New Jersey, for a time and supported herself as a community worker there in the mid-1970s. She continued to write, and her works from this period include Slave Girl and The Joys of Motherhood. This latter work, published in 1979 with a title designed to convey irony, is typical of Emecheta's fiction. Young Nnu Ego, from the village of Ibuza, returns to her family home in shame when she does not conceive a child as a new bride. Her father then sends her away to marry a man in Lagos, named Nnaife, and Nnu Ego detests him at first sight. Nnaife has a lowly job as a laundry worker for a white family, and Nnu Ego views him with a contempt she extends to Nigerian men in general. "Men here are too busy being white men's servants to be men," she thinks. Nnu Ego becomes pregnant but at first gives birth only to girls considered valueless offspring in Nigerian culture. Finally, she has a son, but he dies before he is a month old, and Nnu Ego descends into grief over him and her situation. She tries to kill herself, and a crowd gathers near the bridge to watch--"a thing like that is not permitted in Nigeria, you are simply not allowed to commit suicide in peace," the novel states, "because everyone is responsible for the other person."

More prosperous times eventually arrive for Nnu Ego and her eight children, especially when her husband finds a better job, but when her brother-in-law dies, Nnaife inherits his four wives, and one comes to live with his and Nnu Ego's family. Tensions in the household increase, and here Emecheta shows the ways in which Nigerian traditions clash with the realities of modern life. A man like Nnaife cannot earn enough in a city to support such customs, but in Ibuza such a polygamous lifestyle is possible, for each wife has her own small household. In the end, their family falls apart, and the imposition of Western ways and a foreign economic system destroys Ibo traditions that once ensured stability and continuity. Male children, for instance, are expected to care for elderly parents, but Nnu Ego's sons will not do so for her. Educated in British schools, one emigrates to Canada, while the other rejects his Ibo heritage and fully adopts the European belief in economic self-sufficiency. Nnu Ego dies by the road side, alone. "She died quietly there, with no child to hold her hand and no friend to talk to her," the novel concludes.
Emecheta, though a committed feminist, does not view polygamy as a negative system. "In many cases polygamy can be liberating to the woman, rather than inhibiting her, especially if she is educated," she told the audience assembled at the Second African Writers Conference. "The husband has no reason for stopping her from attending international conferences like this one, from going back to university and updating her career or even getting another degree. Polygamy encourages her to value herself as a person and look outside her family for friends."
Another work that added to Emecheta's literary reputation was 1982's Double Yoke, the story of two young Nigerians who meet while university students. Ete Kamba and Nko are eager to experience life away from their families for the first time, and fall in love. They engage in premarital relations, but Ete Kamba is more conservative than Nko and comes to resent her assertive mind and desire for independence. They separate, and then her professor attempts to seduce her. "The novel is both comic and tragic in its depiction of Nko's and Ete Kamba's youthful, emotional extravagances and the campus response to their transgressions," noted Jewelle Gomez in a Black Scholar review of Double Yoke. "Here, as in Emecheta's other novels, she speaks with an undeniably Nigerian voice; makes clear the Nigerian woman's circumscribed position in society and her skillful adaptation to it."
Emecheta's novels have earned critical accolades from the literary establishment. "Emecheta is no ideologue," remarked New York Times Book Review critic Reginald McKnight, "her characters do not utter or think words that would not come from them; they are not mere representatives of larger social movements but real, complex human beings, shaped by the vicissitudes of class, culture and sexual politics. She raises the right questions, but never harangues. She writes with subtlety, power and abundant compassion."
Other novels from Emecheta include Adah's Story, The Moonlight Bride, and The Family. In The Rape of Shavi, first published in 1983, a plane crash in rural Africa is welcomed by tribes-people there, but the foreigners steal some valuable minerals and repair their plane just before the local chief forces them to wed; his heir stows away on the plane with the Britons. Emecheta also wrote an autobiography, Head above Water, and a 1990 novel that delves into the colonial experience in the Caribbean. The title character in Gwendolen is just eight years old when the novel opens and lives in Granville, Jamaica. Gwendolen remains with family members when her parents emigrate to England--referred to as "Molder Kontry"--but is traumatized when her grandmother's boyfriend sexually assaults her. Eventually she joins her parents in London, and her father also abuses her. The work, written in Jamaican patois, also chronicles her deep humiliation at school because of her language skills. McKnight, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called it a "rich, complex and fast-moving novel."
Emecheta's 1994 novel, Kehinde, depicts the ongoing conflict for Africans living abroad. Kehinde Okolo is a 35-year-old Londoner of Nigerian descent with a management position in international banking. She is also married with two children, but her husband's small business does not satisfy him, and he wishes to return home. In his village, he is likely to become chief, and in the end, Kehinde agrees to the plan but stays in London for a time to sell their home. When she arrives in Nigeria, she finds that her husband has taken another wife, with whom he now has two new children. In the village, Kehinde has no status her position in the family is eclipsed by her husband's sisters and finds herself increasingly troubled by circumstances that surrounded her birth. She was a twin, but the other was stillborn, and their mother died in childbirth; Kehinde suffers from the belief that she was responsible.
Following her success as an author, Emecheta travelled widely as a visiting professor and lecturer. From 1972 to 1979 she visited several American universities, including Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
From 1980 to 1981, she was senior resident fellow and visiting professor of English, University of Calabar, Nigeria. In 1982 she lectured at Yale University, and the University of London, as well as holding a fellowship at the University of London in 1986.
From 1982 to 1983 Buchi Emecheta, together with her journalist son Sylvester, ran the Ogwugwu Afor Publishing Company.
Emecheta returned to Nigeria frequently and to her family in Ibuza. In addition to pursuing her creative work, she held numerous academic posts including stints at Yale and London universities. For a time in the early 1980s she ran a publishing company called Ogwugwu Afor; as of 1979 she was a member of the Britain's Advisory Council on Race. "I am simply doing what my Big Mother was doing for free about thirty years ago," she said of her career as a novelist in the Criticism and Ideology paper. "The only difference is that she told her stories in the moonlight, while I have to bang away at a typewriter I picked up from Woolworth's in London."

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Dr Efua Theodora Sutherland (27 June 1924—2 January 1996) was a celebrated Ghanaian playwright, director, children's author, poet and pioneer dramatist of international renown. She was also an teacher, scholar, an unapologetic Pan-African cultural visionary and activist of ethnic Fante extraction. Before 1965 when the First President of the Republic of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the famous Pan-African leader called for the documentation of “our folktales” as a way of creating “African Classics” for posterity (Nketia’s Preface to Owusu-Sarpong (1998)), Efua T. Sutherland emerged as one of the literary figures who identified the worth of “our folktales” and indeed modified one into a play about seven years earlier. She is the mother of  well-known prolific writer, cultural activist and academician, Esi Sutherland-Addy who is a professor at the Institute of African Studies (University of Ghana) working in the Language Literature and Drama Section.
Efua Theodora Sutherland,  celebrated Ghanaian playwright, director, children's author, poet , Pan African cultural activist and pioneer dramatist of international renown.

As one of the Africa`s early female writers, Efua Sutherland is internationally known literary works include Foriwa (1962), Edufa (1967), and The Marriage of Anansewa (1975). She has also published juvenile literature in the form of children’s rhythm plays such as Vulture, Vulture and Tahinta, which she has tried to use in her private grade school. Efua T Sutherland student was the legendary African writer, Professor Ama Ata Aidoo. In fact, when Ama Ata Aidoo studied drama at the University of Ghana in the early 1960s, her mentor was Sutherland.
Apart from Mabel Dove Danquah, born in 1910, who had started publishing essays , short stories, and plays in the West African Times as early as the 1950s to express her concern over the place and role of women in contemporary Ghana, Sutherland can be regarded as the mother of West African Literature in English. Donald Herdeck has called her “Black Africa’s most famous woman writer”. Even though her name has been dropped out by feminist critics like Florence Straton in her Contemporary African Literature and the Politics of Gender and Adola James’s In their Own Voices, for reasons that are not easy to explain, she is far from being an occasional writer. Her works are published in both Longman and Heineman Editions and her short stories are anthologised both at home and abroad. Her place in West African feminist literature is neither a matter of seniority over other authors such as Flora Nwappa, Ama Ata Aidoo, and Buchi Emecheta, nor that of amount of publications. She deserves a place in the West African literary tradition because she has earned it through that literary process of revision which T.S. Eliot considers as being necessary for the affirmation of individual talents and the existence of literary traditions. Charlotte H. Burner has rightly placed her in the third position, after Mabel Dove Danquah and Adelaide Casely-Hayford in her anthology of African woman writers entitled Unwinding Threads.
Sutherland's plays were often based on African myths and legends, but she also used Western sources, such as Euripides and Lewis Carroll.
"I'm on a journey of discovery. I'm discovering my own people.
 I didn't grow up in rural Ghana - I grew up in Cape Coast with
a Christian family. It's a fine family, but there are certain hidden
areas of Ghanaian life - important areas of Ghanaian life, that I
just wasn't in touch with; in the past four or five years I've made
a very concentrated effort to make that untrue. And I feel I know
my people now." (Efua Sutherland in Cultural Events in Africa, no. 42, 1968)
In her many years of being at the forefront of literary and theatrical movements in Ghana she founded the Ghana Drama Studio, the Ghana Society of Writers, the literary magazine Okyeame, the Ghana Experimental Theatre, and a community project called the Kodzidan (Story House) for the preservation of oral literature and the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Center for Pan African Culture. She was an influential figure in the establishment of modern Ghanaian theatre, and helped to establish the study of African performance traditions at university level.
Apart from her undying devotion to building indigenous models of excellence in culture and education, she served as mentor and inspiration to many notable African personalities in the arts and professions, including writer Ama Ata Aidoo, film maker Kwaw Ansah and writer-illustrator Meshak Asare.
Auntie Efua, as she was affectionately known, made children’s issues central to her life and work. After pioneering an indigenous movement in writing, publishing and development through drama for children, she was appointed in the 1980’s to lead Ghana to become the first country to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Declaration of Rights of the Child.  Through the work of the Ghana National Commission on Children, of which she was a founding member and Chair, several initiatives for children were moved forward including the Children’s Park Library Complex network,  Child Literacy and Mobile Science Laboratory projects, as well as the commissioning of extensive research on the Ghanaian child.
Her work received recognition from both the state and major agencies such as the Valco Trust Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, UNICEF and UNESCO. Other significant supporters included Arthur and Ruth Sloan, the Arthur and Dorothy Clift family of Bromley, UK, Dr. Vivian O. Windley, Merle Worth, the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, USA and the Children’s Television Network.
A twelve-acre space reserved for a children’s park in central Accra through the advocacy of Efua Sutherland was renamed posthumously in her honor. Efua Sutherlandstraat is one of a number of streets in an area of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, named for remarkable women writers and activists.
She was born Efua Theodora Morgue in Cape Coast on 27 June 1 924. She was named after her maternal great-grandmother Nana Ama Nyankomo. Her father, Harry Peter Morgue from the family of Chief Moore of Nsona Paado, Cape Coast, was a well-known teacher of English who once taught at Accra Academy. Her mother, Harriet Efua Maria Parker, was from the royal families of Gomua Brofo and Anomabu, particularly the branch founded by Barima Ansaful at Gyegyano, Cape Coast.
Despite her royal birth, Efua had a very humble and difficult early life; her eventual greatness may be more of a personal achievement than an inherited family fortune. Her young mother died in a
lorry accident at age 18, leaving 5-month old Efua in the care of her grandmother Araba Mansa,
whose personal sacrifice and example of hard work as a baker ensured Efua's survival and provided the single most important impact on her later development into a most resourceful personality.
Theodora Olivia Morgue, as Efua became known, began her primary education at the Government Girls School and later moved to St. Monica's, both in Cape Coast. She took the Standard Seven
examination while she was still in Standard Six, and did so well she won a scholarship to the St. Monica's Training College at Ansate Manpong. St Monica's was founded and run by Anglican Sisters of the Order of the Holy Paraclete, based in Yorkshire, England. The nuns in both Cape Coast and Mampong had such significant influence on the young Efua that she seriously considered becoming a nun and would have gone to England for convent training had her grandmother not intervened.
At 18, she began teaching at senior primary level but soon joined the staff of St. Monica's Training College. In 1947, after five-and-half years of teaching, she went to England where she studied for a B.A. degree at Homerton College, Cambridge University. She spent another year at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, specialising in English linguistics, African languages, and drama. Back in Ghana in 1950, she returned to St. Monica's but later transferred to Fijar Secondary School and then to Achimota School.
In 1954, Efua married William Sutherland, an African American who had been living in Ghana and worked from 1951 -57 to help found what is now Tsito Secondary School in the Volta Region. Efua spent part of the period in Tsito to help with the foundation work. Efua and Bill had three children, Esi Reiter, Ralph Gynan, and Muriel Amowi, who have since become a university research fellow, an architect, and a lawyer respectively.

    Professor Esi Sutherland-Addy, daughter of Dr Efua T Sutherland, the famous Ghanaian writer, dramatist and cultural activist.

Through achievements in culture Ghana also gained attention and prestige on the international scene. In the 1980s Sutherland served as advisor to the president of Ghana, Jerry Rawlings, who led a cop in 1981, and started economic reforms. Sutherland died on January 2, 1996.
It is against this family and educational background that we. must assess the unusual impact of Efua
Sutherland's public life as educator, creative artist, and activist social visionary. She is best known as a dramatist, but her work in this area was always informed by a compelling vision of a better society, and she chose appropriate cultural education as the best foundation on which such society could be established. Like many others, she could have used her considerable talents and skills in the promotion of a spectacular individual career. Instead, she chose to share her gifts with society at large by investing her energies in the building of model programmes and institutions, and in the
training of a future generation.
Sutherland, Bill (II) Biography
 Bill Sutherland husband of the famous Ghanaian writer, dramatist and cultural activist Efua T Sutherland. Bill Sutherland, was unofficial ambassador between the peoples of Africa and the Americas for over fifty years, died peacefully on the evening of January 2, 2010. He was 91. A life-long pacifist and liberation advocate, Sutherland became involved in civil rights and anti-war activities as a youthful member of the Student Christian Movement in the 1930s.

Efua Sutherland's reputation as the founder and mother figure behind the national theatre movement may best be measured by the many key institutions and programmes she was instrumental in bringing into being. She was the prime mover in the founding of the Ghana Society of Writers (1957). A year later, the Ghana Experimental Theatre Company was launched under her
direction. She helped to found the Okyeame literary magazine in 1961.
Through her pioneering research into Ghanaian oral traditions, she introduced onto the stage the unique dramatic form of Anansegoro, deriving its creative model from traditional story-telling drama. To provide an ideal rehearsal and performance space for the emerging national theatre movement, she mobilised funds and supervised the building of the Ghana Drama Studio, ensuring that its design was in harmony with performance demands of African theatre practice. She founded Kusum Agoromba, 'a full-time drama company based at the Drama Studio and dedicated to performing quality plays in Akan.... in towns and villages all over the country.' She provided creative leadership to the Workers' Brigade Drama Group and to the Drama Studio Players.
In May 1963, Efua Sutherland became a Research Associate of the Institute of African Studies. As part of the move, she handed over the Drama Studio to the University of Ghana to be issued as 'an extension division of the School of Music, Dance and Drama.' Through the Drama Studio Programme and the Drama Research Unit of the Institute, Efua Sutherland worked with the late Joe de Graft and others to build the foundations of what was soon to become a model programme in drama and theatre studies and practice in Africa One of her most frequently cited projects, the Atwia Experimental Community Theatre Project, is recognised world-wide as a pioneering model for the now popular Theatre for Development. Araba: The Village Story is a major documentary film done in 1 967 by the American television network ABC to record the success of this unique
experimental project.
Edufa by Efua T Sutherland

A particularly significant aspect of Efua Sutherland's work was the Children's Drama Development Project. This multi-year project focused on research into the cultural life of children in society, used the information gathered as a basis for writing, producing and publishing appropriate plays for children. Conferences, workshops and test productions organised as part of this project have left us with an important collection of plays for children, among them R.A. Cantey's Ghana Motion, Togbe Kwamuar's The Perpetual Stone Mill, Kwamena Ampah's Hwe No Yie, Koku Amuzu's The New Born Child and the Maid Servant, JoeManu-Amponsah's Gates to Mother, Kofi Hiheta's A Bench of Chances, and Kofi Anyidoho;s Akpokplo{Ewe and English). Regrettably, the preparation of these plays for formal publication in a major anthology is one of the many vital projects which Auntie Efua's death has left unfinished.
The 25th Anniversary Programme of the Drama Studio, the final phase of Efua Sutherland's distinguished career in the national theatre movement, coincided with her retirement from the University of Ghana in 1984. The programme opened with an impressive and symbolic Ceremony of Remembrance and moved into a major documentation project covering various forms of drama that have evolved as part of the national theatre movement The 25th Anniversary Programme, ironically, suffered a serious set-back when the Drama Studio was demolished to make way for the
construction of the National Theatre.
Although Auntie Efua was deeply hurt by the demolition of the studio, she continued to work over the next two years to bring the documentation programme to a reasonable completion. It was also in the final phase of her work that she gave to Ghana and the African world probably her grandest artistic vision for uplifting and reuniting African peoples through the arts- an original proposal for the Pan African Historical Theatre Festival, the Panafest Movement. This final gift underscores the significance she attached to connections between Africa and the Diaspora. She played a very critical role in the establishment of the W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Centre for Pan African Culture.
She belonged to an extensive global network of friends, many of them eminent creative minds.
Efua Sutherland's long and distinguished career had also left an impressive corpus of creative works, making her one of Africa's best known writers. In addition to a number of essays, articles, short stories and poems, her published works include a short biography of Bob Johnson, 'the father of the concert party tradition', as well as several other books—Playtime in Africa, The Roadmakers, Edufa, Foriwa, Odasani, Anansegoro: Story-Telling Drama in Ghana, The Marriage of Anansewa, You Swore an Oath, Vulture! Vulture! [and Tahinta]: Two Rhythm Plays, and The
Voice in the Forest. Her unpublished plays for children include The Pineapple Child, Nyamekye, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Ananse and the Dwarf Brigade, Wohye me Bo, and Children of
the Man-Made Lake.
Her best known plays are Edufa (1967) (based on Alcestis by Euripides), Foriwa (1967), and The Marriage of Anansewa (1975).
In Edufa the eponymous character seeks to escape death by manipulating his wife, Ampoma, to the death that has been predicted for him by oracles. In the play, Sutherland uses traditional Ghanaian beliefs in divination and the interaction of traditional and European ceremonies in order to portray Edufa as a rich and successful modern person who is held in high esteem by his people. The play uses traditional ritual and symbolism, but the story is told in the context of Edufa's capitalistic abandonment of his moral commitment to his wife, while his wife and the other women favour the morality of the past.
In Foriwa the eponymous character, who is the daughter of the queen mother of Kyerefaso, and Labaran, a graduate from northern Ghana who lives a simple life, bring enlightenment to Kyerefaso, a town that has become backward and ignorant because the town's elders refuse to learn new ways. Foriwa's main theme is the alliance of old traditions and new ways. The play has a national theme to promote a new national spirit in Ghana that would encourage openness to new ideas and inter-ethnic cooperation.
The Marriage of Anansewa: A Storytelling Drama (1975) is considered Sutherland's most valuable contribution to Ghanaian drama and theater. In the play, she transmutes traditional Akan Ananse Spider tales (Anansesem) into a new dramatic structure, which she calls Anansegoro. Nyamekye (a version of Alice in Wonderland), one of her later plays, shows how she was influenced by the folk opera tradition.
As a major literary voice, she was concerned about the need for making works by African writers available through local publishing. To this end, she played a key role as founder of Afram Publications Ghana Ltd in the early Seventies and until her death maintained an active role in the
editorial work of Afram. It is to her credit and to that of all who have worked with her that three of the winners of the 1995 Valco Fund Literary Awards are works published by Afram.
A concern for children is central to all of Efua Sutherland's life and work. Even after her retirement from the University of Ghana, she was to devote the final phase of her public life to foundation work in the establishment of the Ghana National Commission on Children. She was a foundation member (1979-1983) and later chairperson of the commission (1983- 1990). The work of this commission, especially through the impact of child education programmes designed around a national network of children's parklibrary complexes, the documentation of the situation of the Ghanaian child, and the influencing of state policy on child life, shall remain one of Efua Sutherland's most significant lasting gifts to her nation.
Efua Sutherland served on several other national and international boards and committees, including the Education Commission, the Valco Fund Board of Trustees, and the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO. Her work received recognition and sponsorship from both the state and such major agencies as the Valco Trust Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, UNICEF, and UNESCO.
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the achievement of a full university status, the University of Ghana selected Efua Sutherland as one of a small group of eminent individuals whose
contribution has had a profound impact on the development of the university and of the society at large:
"Efua Theodora Sutherland, for the inspiration provided to the development
of the Dramatic Art, and in recognition of your efforts on behalf of children
for whose benefit you have canvassed children's libraries and amusement
parks, the University of Ghana is privileged to honour you with thedegree of
Doctor of Laws, honoris causa."
Playtime in Africa

Selected works:
*The Roadmakers, 1961 (photographs by Willis E. Bell)
*Foriwa, 1962
*Playtime in Africa, 1962 (photograps by Willis E. Bell)
*Edufa, 1967 (based on Euripides's Alcestis)
*Odasani, 1967 (based on Everyman)
*Vulture! Vulture! and Tahinta: Two Rhythm Plays, 1968
*The Original Bob: The Story of Bob Johnson, Ghana's Ace Comedian, 1970
*Anase and the Dwarf Brigade, 1971 (based on Lewis Carroll's Alice in the Wonderland)
*Anansegoro: Story-telling Drama in Ghana, 1975
*The Marriage of Anansewa, 1975
*Efua Sutherland of Ghana, 1978 (recording)
*The Voice in the Forest, 1983
*The Marriage of Anansewa and Edufa, 1987

Sutherland’s Creativity at Work: The New Family of Mr. Ananse the Spider in The Marriage of Anansewa
                                  P.B. Mireku-Gyimah
Centre for Communication and Entrepreneurship Skills (CENCES), University of
Mines and Technology (UMaT), Tarkwa, Ghana

Abstract: This study explores characterization in Efua T. Sutherland’s The Marriage of Anansewa and demonstrates the playwright’s imagination and creativity at work. Unlike the traditional members of Ananse’s family in Akan folktales comprising a wife (Asɔ), four sons (Ntekuma, Afurudohwedohwe, Tikenenkene and Nyankorɔnhweaa) and sometimes unnamed in-laws, Sutherland creates a daughter (Anansewa), a mother (Aya), an aunt (Ekuwa) and a lover (Christie) for Ananse. Thus there are now four new females in Ananse’s new family to balance the four males in the original Ananse family, counting out man and wife. Unfortunately, Sutherland kills off Asɔ. Anansewa and Christie are main characters but Aya and Ekuwa are made minor characters. Besides this introduction of four women into Ananse’s extended family is Sutherland’s creation of a new identity for Ananse. He is a modernized Ghanaian with an English name, George. Sutherland artistically introduces a new dimension to Ananse by redefining his identity as a modern citizen of the globalized world. Whereas in the traditional folktales Ananse often cheats the members of his family forcing them to find ways and means to survive by foiling Ananse’s tricky plans, Sutherland’s new family members play an entirely different role: they are conscious or unconscious collaborators of Ananse’s scheme to cheat others. It is concluded that, by this new dimension of characters and the roles they play which bring freshness and popularization to the Akan folktales, Sutherland has elevated the Akan folktales to become an African Classic.

Before 1965 when the First President of the Republic of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah,
the famous Pan-African leader called for the documentation of “our folktales” as a way of creating
“African Classics” for posterity (Nketia’s Preface to Owusu-Sarpong (1998)), Efua T. Sutherland emerged as one of the literary figures who identified the worth of “our folktales” and indeed modified one into a play about seven years earlier. She came up with her play entitled The Marriage of Anansewa (TMA), which was first published in 1958. This drama, which is based on
the Akan folktales, was published after productions in Akan and in English by three different notable Ghanaian performing groups, namely the Workers’ Brigade Drama Group, Kusum Agoromba (Kusum Players) and the Drama Studio Players and Kusum Agoromba combined (Sutherland, 1997). Sutherland’s work has enjoyed patronage for decades. In her dedication of the 1986 edition of TMA, Sutherland (1997) observes that a Ceremony of Remembrance was held to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Ghana Drama Studio, her brainchild. She notes that the ceremony, which took the “‘form of a dramatic recall of the works of deceased creative personalities who contributed to the development of Ghana’s heritage of dramatic arts’”, was also used to remember “‘such creative thinkers of the past who left a heritage of perceptions about society in scholarly and other works from which inspiration can be drawn for artistic creation today’”.
Today, in the year 2013, Sutherland herself can be counted as one of the “deceased” luminaries of the past which she referred to in the 1986 dedication. Sutherland’s book, TMA, has continued to enjoy success among both young and old in both academic and non-academic circles and this has been the result of a number of things, including the playwright’s ability to handle the story-telling tradition of the Akan in some interesting ways. For example, in the play, she remains true to the conventions of the folktale tradition, touching on its themes of love and communality among others, projecting the Akan traditional marriage and raising topical issues such as the hypocrisy of some
Christians and their church, not forgetting her profuse use of mboguo (song interludes).
Apart from all these, Sutherland vividly evokes the main character: arch-hero, trickster par excellence and owner of the Akan folktales, Ananse the Spider, personified as Kweku Ananse. She also shows literary prowess in her characterization, that is, her “creation of imaginary persons so that they exist for the reader as life-like” (Holman and Harman, 1986; qtd in Teiko, 2011). In fact, Sutherland portrays great artistic talent in the creation of new characters for the Akan folktales,
especially her extension of the traditional Ananse family. These new characters are mostly complex and believable and help explain the play’s major themes of deception, gullibility, love and marriage.
This paper leans on TMA to demonstrate Efua T. Sutherland’s creativity at work in four major ways as far as the traditional Ananse family is concerned, particularly, by the introduction of four females into the male-dominated family; first, by her creation of a daughter into the family which hitherto has had all-male children; second, by her creation of a lover for Ananse; third, by her creation of a mother for Ananse; and, finally, by her creation of an aunt for Ananse. In addition, the paper studies Sutherland’s creation of a new identity for Ananse himself as a modern Ghanaian
man and an anglicized one for that matter (with the first name George). It is instructive to note that all these characters are new and different from the traditional members of Mr Ananse the Spider’s family in the Akan folktales.
Traditionally, Ananse’s nuclear family members are five; they comprise Ananse’s wife, Asɔ and four sons. Of the four sons, only one, Ntekuma, is normal whereas three are physically challenged. Afurudohwedohwe, Tikenenkene and Nyankorɔnhweaa have aptronyms describing their physical deformities: Afurudohwedohwe literally means Very Very Big Stomach, Tikenenkene means Very Very Big Head and Nyankorɔnhweaa, means Very Very Tiny Legs. Asɔ, the wife and mother, is not part of the new family in TMA, for, unfortunately, Sutherland kills her off.

Sutherland’s work, TMA, is an African play and sourced from an Akan folktale whose story has the poor, struggling father, Kweku Ananse, devising a plan to escape the hardships of life, especially the economic dire straits in which he finds himself and his inability to easily pay his daughter Anansewa’s school fees, among other needs.
Ananse advertises the photograph of his daughter to four prominent chiefs of the land and succeeds in conniving with his daughter to manipulate them to compete unknowingly as suitors seeking the hand of his daughter in marriage. Ananse profits from the gifts which each chief pours on him for the sake of the daughter so as to win her consent. She, of course, would consent to marry only one-the one who, according to the father’s secret plan, would turn out to be most caring. Meanwhile, each one of the chiefs thinks he is the only lover or suitor (for so does Ananse make it to appear to them). Therefore, each chief goes on to choose a date for the customary marriage, which Sutherland calls the “head-drink ceremony”.
Unfortunately, all the four men choose the same date for this marriage ceremony. The clash of the dates presents a serious problem which Ananse must solve fast before the problem brings him trouble. Ananse gets the daughter to pretend to be dead on that special day, knowing that “nobody marries a corpse”. More importantly, he would be enabled to use the sad and unfortunate event to see the reactions of the suitors, judge and select the one who demonstrates true compassion, sympathy and love at such a time. The message of Anansewa’s untimely death is conveyed to each suitor. In this highly emotionally charged atmosphere, Ananse so desperately and seriously mourns his sad loss that he would not be consoled in any way, especially when the chiefs’ messengers begin to arrive to console him on his bereavement.
The messengers of the Chief of the Mines arrive first, then those of the Chief of Sapaase, followed by those of the Chief of Akate and, finally, those of Chief-Who-Is-Chief, the preferred suitor. The “wealthy paramount Chief of the Mines”… has this to say:
"That because this lady had not yet become his wife,
he cannot give her burial; but that which custom does
permit, he is not reluctant to fulfil. He sends “this bolt
of silk, this kente cloth from Bonwire… this dumas
cotton cloth, this drink and this bag of money to help
her father pay for the funeral in farewell to his lady” (p.
Similarly, what the Chief of Sapaase has to say is that: He has no right to give burial to this child because the head-drink did not come in time to make it a conclusive marriage [but] … he is not reluctant at all to perform whatever custom he has the right to perform …
(p. 81).
He sends “his silk, his velvet, his white kente cloth, his striped cloth … and his cash donation of twenty guineas also; spend it on drinks for the funeral …” (p. 81).
Even though Chief of the Mines and Chief of Sapaase offer some gifts to Ananse towards the funeral, they each make it also clear-as we have observed-and rightly so that, customarily, since the marriage was not really contracted before the “death” of Anansewa, it almost becomes a case of “no-sale-no-payment”, for which reason they are not bound to perform the funeral rites for the lady as they would do for a wife.
Indeed, as for the Chief of Akate, he presents no gift whatsoever. What is worse, this chief’s emissary, his “direct brother”, who has come to express condolences to “Togbe Ananse” makes it known that this one chief “was not even in favour of” their coming to sympathise with the bereaved family. “But we said, ‘No’. Even if we came to do nothing, we would show our faces here” (p. 83), the chief emissary explains.
But unlike the three Chief-Who-Is-Chief, through his messengers, says that: He accepts total responsibility for everything concerning the woman who had but one more step to take to enter his home. Therefore, from his hands… here are all requirements for her funeral… (p. 78).
Symbolically, he marries her and also provides a coffin-a glass coffin-in addition to other assorted gifts as would be needed, customarily, for a grand funeral befitting the late wife of a prominent chief:
"… Here is the ring a husband places on a wife’s
finger. Here is a bag of money, spend it on the funeral.
Here are cloths which any woman who is confidently
feminine would select with a careful eye; ... dumas,
white kente, silk kente, velvet, brocade. The drinks …
are in such quantities that we couldn’t bring them here
… this bottle of Schnapps … is what is mandatory for
me to place in your hands… this must be the drink with
which the farewell libation is poured when his beloved
one is being placed in the coffin … (p. 87).
“Finally”, the messenger points out that, it is the desire of Chief-Who-Is-Chief “to do for Anansewa
what a husband does for a wife. And so he sends his coffin, one made of glass. Place his wife in it for him …” (p. 87).
Thus Chief-Who-Is-Chief comes finally to exhibit genuine love for Anansewa even though she is dead and he is under no obligation to go to that extent. This gesture touches Ananse so much that, overwhelmed by this chief’s unique affection, concern, generosity and thoughtfulness, Ananse summons all his wits and acts in a way as to make this lovely chief win the “contest”.
As it happens, Anansewa resurrects for the preferred suitor, by the powers evoked through Ananse’s libation prayer-ironically, using the bottle of Schnapps presented by Chief-Who-Is-Chief.
Ananse and his daughter, Anansewa, are greatly assisted in all this drama by Ananse’s lover, a
“fashionable”, modern, career woman called Christie.
Before all this, however, Ananse hurriedly arranges with the Institute for Prospective Brides headed by Christie to get Anansewa trained and groomed for marriage as a modern, educated woman. He also arranges with Anansewa’s grandparents, Aya and Ekuwa, to get her properly prepared for marriage, especially marriage to a chief, according to custom, by ensuring that Anansewa is taken through the puberty rites which Sutherland refers to as the “outdooring ceremony”.

In TMA, we find four new women related to Ananse (Anansewa, Christie, Aya and Ekuwa) instead
of the only woman, Asɔ, also called ɔkonorɔ Yaa or Okondor Yaa (Opoku-Agyemang, 1999), who has long been known in the Akan folktale tradition as Ananse’s wife. Anansewa is the daughter, Christie is a lover who desires to be Ananse’s wife and, by the end of the play, there is every hope that she will become Ananse’s wife.
Aya is Ananse’s biological mother and Ekuwa is Ananse’s aunt (Aya’s sister); they are two other women who are also new entrants in the extended family of Ananse. All these female characters are dynamic, active, “life-like” and help advance the plot as well as the themes of deception, gullibility, love and marriage in the play. Whereas Anansewa and Christie are main characters, Aya and her sister, Ekuwa, may be classified as minor characters.
Anansewa: Anansewa is introduced very early in the play. She is the daughter of Ananse- “Pa Ananse” -and, like the father, she dominates the story. In fact, Sutherland presents Anansewa to the audience as a lovely young lady, the only daughter and the only child of Ananse. This is unlike in the Akan folktale tradition where Ananse has no daughter whatsoever. There, the children are only boys (four in all) and, as previously noted only one of them, Ntekuma, is normal. Ntekuma
is known to be a foil to the father in most of the tales in which Ananse’s tricks backfire.
For example, in one Akan folktale, the story is told that once Ananse plans to possess and control all the wisdom of the world and proceeds to sweep every bit together into a pot. He then tries to carry the collection of wisdom in the pot to hide on top of the tallest tree for himself alone. However, no matter how hard he tries, he is unable to climb the tree because he hangs the pot in
front of him instead of behind him. It is his little son Ntekuma standing below and observing the
proceedings, who suggests to the frustrated father to carry the pot at his back. Ananse tries and it works! He manages to climb smoothly to the tree top.
Nevertheless, on realising that Ntekuma the tiny boy could give such a wise advice to him, who is the only one supposed to have all wisdom, Ananse becomes disappointed that some wisps of wisdom might have remained on earth after all, so, out of a deep sense of failure, he drops the pot which breaks to scatter all over the world all the wisdom stored in it. For this reason, wisdom has become the heritage of all humankind (Sackeyfio et al., 1994).
The siblings of Ntekuma are spectacular. One has a big head (his name is Tikenenkenen literally meaning Very Very Big Head); one has a big stomach (his name is Afurudohwedohwe literally meaning Very Very Big Stomach) and the other has tiny legs (his name is Nyankorɔnhweea literally meaning Very Very Tiny Legs) as we have previously observed of them. Anansewa has no siblings or mother in TMA. Her mother, who is anonymous in the play, is dead and so Anansewa lives with only her father. However, she has a loving paternal grandmother and a grand-aunt being Ananse’s mother, Aya and his aunt, Ekuwa.
On the one hand, Anansewa loves life and represents modern ladies. She likes to go out but the
father wants her to stay at home and serve him as is seen in the following conversation between the two:
Ananse: Going-and-coming is necessary…. Otherwise nothing succeeds. I went to buy paper. Here is typing paper. Here is carbon paper. Here are envelopes… Sit down with the machine.
Anansewa: [Petulantly] Ah, I was coming to tell you I was going out.
Ananse: My daughter, it isn’t well at home, therefore sit down, open up the machine I bought for your training and let the tips of your finger give some service for which I’m paying. I have very urgent letters to write.
Anansewa: Just when I was going out? (p. 10)
Ananse: There you sit looking lovely and it is exciting for you to go out in all your beauty. That’s all you know. But tell me, won’t you return home, here, afterwards? (p. 11).
On the other hand, Anansewa is observed to be a daughter who is respectful and understands her family difficulties. For instance, she stays behind to assist the father. Further, she knows that her fees as well as the last instalment on the typewriter she needs for her training are in arrears and that the burden of that need is on her father. Thus she is prepared and also responsible enough to undergo practical training and study hard to become self-sufficient and useful not only to herself but
also to her family, especially her father, who is struggling to see her through education. She is literate, knows shorthand and is training to be a professional career woman. We as audience find her able to type her father’s letters.
Besides formal schooling, Anansewa also humbles herself to go through the traditional preparations and training meant to make her a proper Akan woman and the wife of a chief, a woman of substance and a role model to the community. We are told that she actually likes and enjoys her outdooring ceremony “so much” and that, according to her grand-aunt, Ekuwa, Anansewa “keeps on asking questions in order to learn as much as she can” (p. 45). Later, when it becomes absolutely necessary for her to “die” as her father requests her to do, she agrees, though not without asking questions, as is observed, for example, in the following dialogue between the two:
Ananse: ... [Darting closer to her] Open your eyes wide and let me see.
Anansewa: What? Very well. I’ve opened them.
Ananse: [Peering into her eyes] for what reason? [She laughs.] Shut them tight.
Anansewa: [Smiling a little and obliging] I’ve shut them tight.
Ananse: Mhm Stiffen your limbs.
Anansewa: [Opening her eyes]. For what reason? [She laughs] Very well, I have stiffened my limbs. [She does so.]
Ananse: Do it properly, I want you to look as though you are dead.
Anansewa: What do you mean? [She laughs.] I have never died before.
Ananse: My daughter, I implore you, don’t waste time. What I’m doing is in serious preparation.
Anansewa: [Understanding nothing at all] Preparation?
Ananse: Yes my daughter, stiffen yourself.
Anansewa: [Doing so with laughter] There you are. Are you satisfied?
Ananse: Very pleased. It’s really coming right. Try not to move any part of your body. [Anansewa tries.] Oh yes… And now… Can’t you hold your breath?
Anansewa: [Finding this too much] Hold my breath! I shouldn’t breathe? As for that, definitely no, I can’t do it and will not.
Ananse: Oh but my daughter, it’s necessary for you to die!
Anansewa: Me? [Words fail her.] But father, I’m alive. I’m open-eyed. How can I switch my life off and on like electricity?
Ananse: Don’t spout silly jokes, you don’t understand what we are doing.
Anansewa: Then make me understand; because this game you’re playing is full of mystery. I don’t like it.
Ananse: My daughter.
Anansewa: My father.
Ananse: You are forcing me to tell you those four people are coming. Just coming? They are rushing here. Sprinting.
Ananse: … racing here like fire blazing through grass… (pp. 55-56).
And she “dies” when the time finally comes, in order to save her father from humiliation, among other things, as the suitors, “those four people are coming”, “Just coming”, “rushing”, “Sprinting’, “racing here like fire blazing through grass” as Ananse puts it (p. 56). Thus Anansewa is strong and intelligent but also obedient.
Yet, she knows her rights and will not marry blindly just to satisfy culture. As such, she questions the father as to whatever she does not understand and insists at one point that she is old enough to choose her own husband -“I’m not a child. I’m twenty” (p. 20) - and so would not have the father choose any “old chief” (p. 20) for her or, as she puts it, sell her as a commodity-“I will not let you sell me like some parcel to a customer. [She sings on] I will select my lover myself/I’ll never comply./ I will not let you sell me…/Not ever!/Not ever!” (p. 20).
Later, however, when she learns that one of the chiefs is a wealthy, caring, good-looking and relatively younger man: a “finely built, glowing black, largedeyed, handsome as anything, courageous and famous” (p. 22) chief, who has been remitting her through the father and “not just showing interest with his mouth” (p. 22), she falls flat in love with him and so cooperates with the father to win this chief as her husband.
In this sense, Anansewa makes a choice of the husband she loves and not one imposed on her by
tradition. This comes out clearly in the following dialogue between her and her father in which Ananse tries to hint that, he has taken gifts from four good chiefs and not just one, thereby already “entangling” her in the affair:
Anansewa: What four chiefs are racing here?
Ananse: Oh-h-h, dear! Rouse your memory if it’s asleep and remember. I tell you there is no time to waste. Each chief’s messengers are on their way, urgently sent to place your head-drink on the table.
… I tell you each chief is coming running to claim you as his wife.
Anansewa: [Laughing] over my dead body. … I repeat, over my dead body. How can they claim me as their own? … . They dare not.
Ananse: …They can dare.
Anansewa: Father, why? All that aside, why do you say ‘they’? Why don’t you say ‘he’, the single one?
Ananse: [His eyes darting] are you asking me why?
Anansewa: Yes why? Because I know that it’s only one chief we are expecting to come. And as far as that person is concerned, he cannot come too quickly for me. I’m waiting for him asleep and awake. As for the other three chiefs, my father, you made them take their eyes off me long ago, remember. Right at the beginning, you refused to accept gifts from their hands…. (p. 56).
From the foregoing discussion, Anansewa is very much human unlike her father’s children in the Akan folktales. Thanks to Sutherland’s rich imagination and artistry, Ananse can now boast of a daughter and, for that matter, a normal, modern and believable one who can think, understand, question and act. Sutherland’s fertile imagination leads to the creation of Anansewa thus deepening interest in her play as an African classic and in the Akan folktales as a cultural heritage.
Aya and Ekuwa: Aya and Ekuwa are also two new women related to Ananse. Unlike Anansewa, they are introduced much later in the play, in Act Three. Sutherland creates Aya as Ananse’s mother. For once in the Akan folktales, Ananse has a biological mother, Aya. Aya is flesh and blood and a loving Akan grandmother of Anansewa. She adores her son, Ananse and her grand-daughter, Anansewa, for whom she has been invited to serve, by performing the traditional
“outdooring ceremony” for her. By this ceremony, Aya is to initiate her grandchild Anansewa into womanhood, especially as a woman prepared to take a heavy responsibility as a chief’s wife.
Even though the ceremony seems delayed and Aya complains a little, she goes ahead with her sister, Ekuwa, to do the best for Anansewa, whom they variously refer to with so much affection and terms of endearment such as “your grandchild”, “this grandchild of yours” (p. 44), “our child”, “my grandchild” (pp. 45, 46 and 47), “my gold child” (p. 47), “my grandchild Anansewa”, “our girl” and “this grandchild of mine” (p. 50).
It is instructive to note that Aya is a paternal grandmother. Now, as far as the Akan custom of
matrilineal inheritance is concerned, paternal grandmothers are mostly not too keen on their
grandchildren for the simple reason that these grandchildren belong to their mother’s family lineage.
Therefore, usually, grandmothers are rather more interested in their daughter’s children, that is, the
maternal grandchildren. Often a proverbial question is posed to explain this: “Woahunu akokɔnini a ne mma di n’akyi da?” literally meaning “have you ever before seen a cock whose chicks are following it?” But contrary to this tradition, Aya shows great interest in Anansewa and her success in life, both present and future, as far as the ceremony and its significance are concerned. And she offers Anansewa the best gift which is a prayer for a husband who has respect for his fellow human beings. Hear her:
"… My grandchild, Anansewa, your old lady knows
what is of real value in this world. You notice that this
outstretched hand of mine is empty, it contains nothing.
And yet, this same empty hand will succeed in placing
a gift into your brass bowl. What this hand is offering is
this prayer of mine. May the man who comes to take
you from our hands to his home be, above all things, a
person with respect for his fellow human beings …. (p.
In TMA, Sutherland creates a situation where Anansewa’s mother is no more and we do not as much as hear of or find her maternal grandmother at all. Instead, it is her father’s mother-her paternal grandmother-who is present and must perform the highly important “outdooring ceremony” for the young lady. It is acknowledged that the ceremony appears delayed on account of Anansewa (probably because her mother is dead) and Aya rightly questions “why now?”
Also, Aya becomes sincerely emotional and briefly laments the sad absence of Anansewa’s mother at such a crucial time and at such a memorable day in the girl’s life. All the same, Aya takes consolation in Ekuwa’s words of reason-“… I don’t believe you want to ruin Anansewa’s joy” (p. 45). So Aya gathers herself up and tackles the task head on, with such love and enthusiasm! And this paternal grandmother does the job remarkably well while taking up any other role which
Anansewa’s own mother would probably have played had she been alive.
Ekuwa confirms this when she declares of her sister, “Mm, Aya, are you already here? I see you are keeping your eyes wide open to make sure that nothing goes wrong with your grandchild Anansewa’s outdooring” (p. 44). Perhaps, with the portrayal of Aya in such a positive light as far as she is Anansewa’s paternal grandmother, Sutherland is pointing out that this is how things ought to go, that paternal grandmothers must show love and affection to their son’s children the same way they do to their daughter’s.
On the part of Ekuwa herself, she offers her grandchild, Anansewa, “service”, calling her “my child
of beauty” and wishing her very very well (pp. 48 -49) and we find her also as lovable as Aya, but somehow more objective. It is she who points out the wisdom in the adage that says “Better late than never” when she explains to Aya about the need for the “outdooring ceremony” to take place even if it has somehow delayed for Anansewa. Ekuwa observes, “… I’ve been trying to explain it to you. If this grandchild of yours is going to marry a chief, then, it is our duty to prepare her in every way for the position she will be occupying in a palace” (p. 44). To this, Aya responds with the following words charged with sincere emotions:
"Aya: All right. Whatever it may be, I’m happy to see
my Anansewa conducting herself in the manner that
graces a woman. You do not know what feelings are
breaking and ebbing like waves inside me because of
this ceremony we are performing. This wave brings
happiness and that one brings pride and another,
sadness. Yes, it is true that you and I are here doing all
we can and yet when I remember that the person who
should be here as well, bustling around Anansewa
should be her own mother, then, my sister Ekuwa, a
wave of sorrow crests up inside me mangling my
innards. [She starts to dirge] And it isn’t as though it is
where we could send her a telegram to say, ‘come’. It
isn’t as though we could send a messenger by taxi to
fetch her. [She is about to wail seriously.] Truly, death
has done some wickedness (p. 45).
Still, Aya portrays the bad mother-in-law behavior prevalent among some Akan/Ghanaian women towards their in-laws. In fact, before Aya meets Christie personally for the first time, Aya’s remark to her sister Ekuwa is that Christie is “senselessly extravagant”(p. 45) and she also complains without any proof that Christie “is serving my son Kweku too hard” (p. 45).
By those remarks made behind Christie’s back, Aya is suggesting that Christie is after her son Ananse’s wealth.
Worse, we note how Aya despisingly refers to Christie as “that woman” and “the woman” (p. 45)
whereas Christie lovingly calls her “Mother”. In fact, when Christie comes in, she addresses her nicely as “mother” and delightedly exclaims to her: “How I have dressed up my daughter Anansewa!” Sadly, however, Aya sarcastically mimics Christie’s words to her sister, later,-again in the absence of Christie-with the words “‘I’ve dressed up my daughter Anansewa’, indeed!”
Aya even goes to the extent of adding contemptuous remarks such as “When did my grandchild become her child?” and also “Whom is she calling mother? Me?” (p. 46). When her sister Ekuwa
tries to point out that Christie is there on Ananse’s invitation and that she is just trying to help, Aya,
“[snorting]”, has only this to say that, “The way I see it she is leaning her ladder on my grandchild in order to climb up to my son” (p. 45).
It is clear from these and other reactions of hers that even though Aya is nice to Anansewa, when it
comes to Christie, Aya changes from being a nice person- possibly because she does not approve of the relationship between Ananse and Christie. It may be argued that Ananse has not married Christie yet and so Aya may be right not to encourage illegitimate marriage or immorality, but then courtship must precede marriage? Or, being traditionalist, Aya is not interested in courtship?
The truth of the matter is that, the behavior of some mothers-in-law or would-be ones in Akan land, Ghana and elsewhere is just as that shown by Ananse’s mother. It is surprising how the same person can show so much affection and yet so much disgust on account of the same son. Aya loves Anansewa, daughter of her son, but Aya dislikes Christie, partner of her son.
Perhaps, once again, Sutherland is using Aya to point out the anomaly in order to encourage a change in such “rival” mothers-in-law. “Love me love my dog”, Sutherland seems to advise.
Concerning Aya and her sister Ekuwa, however, there is a twist in the story which makes them pitiful, in that, after toiling so much to prepare Anansewa for marriage to a chief, in the end, they are told lies and chased away by Ananse, under the pretext that they cannot stand the sad but fake death of Anansewa. By sending them away, one can conclude that, the poor women would not be around to partake in the merriment in the marriage of their paternal grandchild, Anansewa, to Chief-Who-Is-Chief. What a pity!
Christie: Like Anansewa and the elderly women Aya and Ekuwa in TMA, Christie is a woman in Ananse’s life and a special one at that, being his lover. Her full name is Miss Christina Yamoah and she is described in the play as a “fashionable” woman, the proprietress of the Institute for Prospective Brides. Sutherland mentions her name much earlier at the end of Act Two when she is telephoned to take care of Anansewa at the Institute, yet Christie does not appear until later in the
play, in Act Three, to dress Anansewa on the day of the “outdooring ceremony”, where Christie joins the grannies and Anansewa’s peers in the celebrations.
However, Miss Yamoah is made to dominate the funeral scenes since she literally becomes the face of Ananse while he seriously mourns his daughter, Anansewa, who is dead and lies in state, at a time when the old ladies have actually left having been tricked to leave by Ananse before Anansewa’s death.
Christie is therefore made to occupy a very important position including that of a linguist and she
skillfully plays these roles to the admiration of all. In any case, she also reveals herself as a liar and a crook just like her lover, all in the name of love and materialism. This is particularly so as she ensures that the sad atmosphere is maintained while she tactfully prevents the situation, where the lie behind Ananse’s plan could be exposed. Above all, Christie finds a means of collecting whatever gifts are brought to Ananse by the sympathizers.
Christie respects Ananse’s mother and addresses her dearly as “mother” although she is not yet married to him and Ananse’s mother does not seem to like her. This shows how much she wants to be accepted as a daughter-in-law. According to Akan custom, the mother of one’s partner/spouse is indeed one’s mother as well.
To all intents and purposes, Christie is very much in love with George Kweku Ananse, but Ananse seems to be dragging his feet concerning getting married to her. Yet Christie shows such love, care and concern to Ananse and the daughter Anansewa that she assists the grandmothers in the preparation for the “outdooring ceremony” and, indeed, presents to Anansewa something valuable, in the form of a “sovereign” which is “so precious” to Christie; something she is so emotionally attached to and says “I never thought I n never thought I would part with this sovereign in my
hand” (p. 49).
As previously hinted, she ensures, more importantly, that neither Ananse nor Anansewa is
exposed during the fake death, lying-in-state and resurrection of Anansewa. As Ananse wails
uncontrollably on account of the feigned ‘loss’ of his only child albeit his beloved daughter, Anansewa, it is Christie who takes the responsibility of receiving the messengers of the four contesting chiefs, asks the mission according to custom and takes charge of the gifts they bring. She carefully guards the room where Anansewa’s “corpse” lies and makes sure no-one gets too near the ‘body’ and possibly see the corpse breathing. Also, she tries to console Ananse and makes the whole scam affair very believable. In the end, Ananse, whom Christie affectionately calls “Georgie”, succeeds, thanks to her as much as to Anansewa, whom Christie lovingly refers to as “my daughter” (p. 45), “my darling”, “my sweetie” and “my dear” (p. 49).
Sutherland’s presentation of Christie would seem to give credence to the popular Ghanaian cliché that says “Fear woman”, an expression often used to underscore the cunningness of women and how dangerous they can be.
In the final analysis, there is hope that the two, that is, Christie and Ananse, shall become one just as is most likely to occur between the resurrected Anansewa and the much beloved Chief-Who-Is-Chief. Luckily for Christie, it is unlikely that she will not be around to partake in the final enjoyment, especially when Aya is far away.
With the introduction of the young, “fashionable” Auntie Christie in TMA, Efua T. Sutherland also
reaffirms the saying that “beside every successful man is a woman.”
Ananse: Ananse himself remains the old Kweku Ananse in the traditional Akan folktales. He is the archhero, arch-trickster and, indeed, the “owner” of the tales, as is generally accepted. In TMA, for example, these are confirmed. Not only is Ananse the principal character but also he is the unbeatable trickster, who is able to play on the intelligence of a whole community including his own mother and aunt and even the “great” leaders of his society, being “four prominent chiefs of
the land”!
We observe how the whole story of the marriage of Anansewa is dominated by Ananse. Again, we observe how, for instance, after Anansewa’s “outdooring ceremony” has been beautifully performed by his mother and aunt, Ananse finds a lie to tell them that an enemy has set fire to the family property-being their only cocoa farm back in their village, Nanka and so gets them packing there and then into a waiting taxi as they wail their fate, pointing accusing fingers at no one in particular and rushing back home to their village to see to the “problem”. Moreover, we also observe how Ananse confuses the whole community with his fake bereavement not to talk of how he makes the chiefs the butts of his one big joke of a marriage to his daughter.
Here, the true character of Ananse as a trickster, a cheat and a selfish man is upheld by Sutherland.
Yet Sutherland also transforms him as a more enlightened man in TMA in order to raise him to a new level in the scheme of things. And he becomes a good man, too. Ananse’s new identity is the anglicized one with the new name ‘George’. George Kweku Ananse becomes the new Akan man, who, unlike most Akan fathers of Sutherland’s time, will educate his girl-child and not consign her to early marriage or confine her to only the kitchen just because she is female. Thus, while wishing for the best caring man to marry her, Ananse makes sure that his daughter will become educated,
independent and economically empowered; therefore, he struggles to see her through school and professional training, no matter how much it costs him, financially or emotionally.
It is also worth noting that even though Kweku acquires a new foreign name, “George” (“Georgie”) and with it an anglicized identity, he respects the traditions of his society and culture. For instance, he believes in traditional marriage and he gets an “outdooring ceremony” organized for his only daughter to prepare her for marriage, in fact, the high calling of a chief’s wife, though a bit belatedly and also after having prepared her at the Institute for Prospective Brides, in the care of the fashionable Madam Christie, the proprietess.
The significance of this seeming contradiction in Ananse is that, perhaps, it is possible to marry positive aspects of different cultures without harm, especially in today’s globalised world. Again, Sutherland’s creativity is at its best in the carving of the new Ananse of TMA and the Akan folktales.

This paper has studied Efua T. Sutherland’s creative genius as far as characterization in TMA is
concerned. It has shown that although TMA is built around the famous Ananse character of the Akan folktales, Sutherland artistically introduces a new dimension to the Ananse family by bringing in new entrants, who are all female and also by redefining Ananse’s identity as a modern citizen of the globalised world. There is now a balance of four women to match the four males in the original Ananse family outside him and his wife, Asɔ.
Together with the grandparents, the new family of Ananse becomes more realistic, especially as an
African family and the members play their roles well as major and minor characters to advance the play, both plot-wise and thematically. To a large extent, they all act and behave like real people in the real world of human beings. All these new features of the Akan folktales as depicted in TMA have been made possible owing to Sutherland’s success as a playwright with a powerful artistic presentation of characters.
However, as previously observed, Sutherland does not permit Asɔ to live. This is unfortunate in two main ways. First, because the traditional Ananse family appears immortal as no member of it has ever died in the Akan folktales. If anything, it is Ananse the trickster himself who, sometimes, pretends to be dead out of greed just to cheat the family of food (see for example Tale 35 titled “Wives should help their husbands to work”, in Mireku-Gyimah (2011), but he resurrects soon after. So Ananse himself is also apparently immortal.
Sutherland should, therefore, have allowed Asɔ the wife to live, especially now that Asɔ has a daughter-and a strong one for that matter-to support her against her trickster husband and mostly weak sons. Had Asɔ been spared to live, there would have been a perfect balance of five males and five females, who would have represented the society better.
The existence of Asɔ the wife and Christie as a lover preparing to be a wife, or, possibly, a second wife would still not be out of place but rather even more representative of the traditional society, which permits polygamy. And Christie would be the perfect step mother-a rival who loves her husband and therefore loves whatever belongs to him, in this case, his child, Anansewa, as her own. Perhaps Sutherland simply kills off Asɔ just to try to avoid propagating polygamy which, outside traditional society, is largely considered as immoral and also to avoid adding to the woes of the suffering wife with the presence of a co-wife or girlfriend. Once again, in all these dimensions, it is all Sutherland’s art at work.

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