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Ama Ata Aidoo's Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa

Theatre of the Black Atlantic Presentation

Natyna Osborne

on 1 October 2013

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Transcript of Ama Ata Aidoo's Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa

Ama Ata Aidoo's Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa
Narrative Style of Anowa
Much of this narrative breaks the fourth wall, using characters such as the Old Man and Old Woman for plot devices. The soliloquies are to be geared toward the audience. The story feels like it was set up in a way where the characters are teaching the audience a parable, and there is always a lesson to be learned. Most of the narrative is in prose but when in verse it becomes a sing song melodic rhythm of the language, including songs chants and rhymes;

Primary story is the relationship between Anowa and her husband Kofi Ako, the secondary is that backstory given by the old man and woman, and the the perception of Anowa by her parents, Badua and Osam.
Presented By: Kurtis Leon Baker, Eve Grissinger, Natyna Osborne, Thalia Pignanelli, Julio Saenz
Narrative Style of Dilemma of a Ghost
All the names of the characters are specific to the place they were brought up in, yet Eulalie, when she is first introduced in the play without herself speaking, her name is what troubles Ato’s relatives. It is foreign to them as is where she came from, to them although she may look black she is still ‘white-washed’ by being from America. Her name means sweet talk, a very melodic rhythm to her name, feels very different in the mouth compared to Ato, Akroma, or Nana. Ato calls her my sweet in the first scene between Ato and Eulalie. She breaks the rhythm of the rest of the characters with her American references and ‘slang’ so to speak. She breaks the old and wise rhythm with her ‘sweet talk’.

The primary story is of Ato’s relationship with his relatives and with each other regarding Eulalie. The secondary stories are the relationships between Eulalie and Ato himself, as well as the relationship between the boy and girl.
Narrative Style of Both Plays
-Although both plays were originally written in English, the narrative is that of a work translated, perhaps to emphasize that these characters would not be speaking English if they were to come to life.

-The proverbs said in both plays (name examples of proverbs in both plays and explain there meanings) are references that us as the readers perhaps do not understand, and even so if the reader were to be familiar with the proverb, the translation gives it a degree of separation.
EX) ANOWA “the string of the orphan beads might look better on the wrist of the leopard but it is the antelope who has lost his mother”(Gilbert, 121)

AKROMA “we can soon know the bird which will not do well, for his next hangs by the wayside” (Aidoo, 8)

-Both plays exhibit oral narratives that are spontaneous and conducive to preserving the originality of the culture displayed in the story. It remains true to the mentality of the characters, and their traditional ways of expressing thoughts and convictions. They blend different oral Ghanian traditions, raising questions in the reader’s minds as to what exactly they agree or disagree upon the decisions of the characters.

-Stage directions are an integral part of both plays, mainly due to the fact that they are necessary to understand what exactly is going on with the characters regardless of the production. Aidoo is extremely specific when it comes to giving the actor stage directions. Actors are a vehicle to serve the story, which is the most important part of the play, so their relationship with the narrative of the play is extremely important to performance aspect, as indicated by the stage directions.
Contextual Setting
Ghana - located on the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean in West Africa.

Abura, Ghana - small town in the central region of south Ghana

(left is Abura, right is Ghana)

Contextual Setting
Politics aside from historical:

- In terms of modern political affairs, political parties became legal midway through the year of 1992
- Some parties include: National Democratic Congress, Provisional National Defense Council, and New Patriotic Party
- National Democratic Congress is currently in power


- English is the primary business language in Ghana
- Akan is the national language that more than 83% of people speak
- Christianity is the predominant religion of Ghana faith relations are peaceful and tolerant in Ghana
- Literature : Ama Ata Aidoo is one of Africa's most prolific and celebrated writers; these two plays are her first and second respectively (The Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa)
- Clothing/Costume: different symbols and colors mean different things; Kente clothing is the most famous type of clothing. It is clothing made of strips of hand-woven cloth about 4 inches wide and sewn together to make larger pieces. Kente comes in various colors, sizes, designs, and are worn during important social and religious occasions.

Textual Setting
Gold Coast:
- name provided in the 15th and 16th centuries because of discovery of gold
- name for Ghana as a result of European contact by the Portuguese and the Dutch
- Ghana, “Gold Coast”, was impressively providing gold resources in the area for trade

Bond Treaty:
- known as the “Bond of 1844”
- a document which urged local leaders in Ghana as well as neighboring states and countries to submit major crimes (murder, thievery, etc...) to British jurisdiction
- this laid the legal foundation for future colonization of the British in the coastal areas

Setting in Aidoo's Plays

The Dilemma of a Ghost:
- Strongly influenced by many of the issues that would come to highlight Aidoo’s work - Legacy of the slave trade, therefor this is post that era - Role of women in African societies
- Dynamics of African Diasporic identity

- set during the time earlier than The Dilemma of a Ghost
- focuses on similar issues and themes but obviously incorporates trade and slavery

• Issues posed:
o Identity and clash of culture
o The disjuncture between traditional and modernly progressive societies

Notable Characters:
• ATO YAWSON: A young Ghanaian graduate
o Ato is used to represent the in-between place, the struggle for identity between the African heritage he comes from, and the American culture and education he has gained
o He is caught in limbo, tugged in two directions: toward his future with his new wife and understanding of new customs, and toward the “ghost” of his traditional boyhood in Africa
o He is also the physical manifestation of the meeting point between the two cultures, represented by his mother and other family members, and his wife, respectively
o He embodies the psychic split of the man who is unable to reconcile the differences between his identity as an African and his Westernization through education

• EULALIE YAWSON: Afro-American graduate
o She largely represents the progression of Western education and modern society
o Ato describes Eulalie as the “sweetest and loveliest things in Africa and America rolled together” This in a way is a foreshadowing of her struggle with the double identity of being American but having African roots
o Though at first anxious to assimilate herself within her African roots, Eulalie soon feels like an outsider, and continues to alienate herself from the customs and traditions of Ato’s family throughout the play
o She eventually demonstrates a certain level of chosen ignorance and closes herself off to accepting the tradition culture

• ESI KOM: Ato’s mother
o Model of the traditional African woman
o She is presented in opposition to Eulalie
o Esi largely represents the steadfast tether to traditional African culture and customs
o She also, however, is judgmental of Eulalie and feels threatened by her noncompliance with the family’s ways
o She is the one who finally resolves the main conflict of the play in a depiction of a loving and accommodating, proud yet understanding and responsible African woman, despite all wrongs inflicted upon her.
o She ultimately picks up the pieces of her son’s indecision and state of irresolution

• MONKA: Ato’s sister
o Very wary of Eulalie’s presence in their lives
o Monka is perhaps the most judgmental of the family, feeling as though Eulalie is spoiled and should remain an outsider if she doesn’t make an effort with the family

• NANA: Ato’s grandmother
o Even with the presence of Ato’s two uncles as men in the family, Nana assumes the responsibility of the head of her family.
o Nana is the highest authority, and is treated with reverence and respect

• AKYERE and MANSA: His aunts
• PETU & AKROMA: his uncles

• 1ST WOMAN & 2ND WOMAN: neighbors
o Provide commentary on the central characters, as well as on the societies and cultures presented, providing a greater understanding of the context of the play as representations of and commentators on their cultures and social organization

• BOY & GIRL: Two children in a dream. The boy being the ghost of Ato’s former self

• Though the actual title of the play refers to Ato’s dilemma, Aidoo has most pointedly depicted the roles of both the African-American and the African woman in modern and traditional societies.

• In The Dilemma of a Ghost, women are given prominent roles and they occupy positions of family authority usually given to men in most African Literature. This is signified perhaps most obviously by the absence of Ato’s father as a character.

• The African woman is of equal status with her husband and men of the household. In addition, Ato's mother, Esi Kom plays a reconciliatory role. It is she who in the end helps to save the family from collapse by accepting Eulalie, through which the distinct African identity is portrayed, from a female perspective.

• Aidoo's play is based on the conflict between traditional culture, and Western education and values, seen most prominently through the conflicts between the characters of Eulalie and Esi Kom. This also further promotes the importance Aidoo stresses on the female role in the modern society, as well as in the traditional culture. She is hitting two birds with one stone, encompassing a wide range of identities, and presenting the idea that reconciliation between the two is necessary for both the modern and traditional cultures to meet.

ANOWA: Issue posed:
• Significant period in the colonial history of Africa's Gold Coast; capitalist and colonialist exploitation is explicitly linked to patriarchal dominance and gender oppression
• Draws parallels between wives and slaves

Notable Characters:
o Provide commentary on the central characters, as well as on the societies and cultures presented, providing a greater understanding of the context of the play as representations of and commentators on their cultures and social organization

• A MAN and A WOMAN: who don't say a word
o Representation of the future of Anowa and Kofi Ako

• ANOWA: a young woman who grows up
o Heroine of the play
o Upholds certain strong values and morals of the traditional community
o Also depicted as in opposition to the traditional social order upheld by the other female characters:
she rejects the accepted roles assigned to women in her society
o Caught between rebelling against conventions of traditional society and refusing to adopt the materialistic values of the rising bourgeoisie

• KOFI AKO: her man who expands
o Proves to have a weak moral character
o Represents the rise of the bourgeoisie, and ends up accumulating wealth at the expense of his manhood

• OSAM: her father who smokes his pipe • BADUA: her mother who complains at the beginning and cries at the end
• BOY: a young slave, about twenty years old • GIRL: a young slave girl
• PANYIN-NA-KAKRA: a pair of boy twins whose duty it is to fan an empty chair

• Aidoo establishes the relationship between the personal and the political: the public history of slave-trading is mirrored in Kofi Ako's treatment of Anowa, who had given so much of her own labor to his enterprises.

• It is also significant that the effects of Kofi Ako's endeavours manifest in his impotence: political power is a compensation for sexual inadequacy and, conversely, sexual inadequacy is an effect of political power. The motif of impotence also points indirectly to imperialism's damaging effects on African social organization, particularly in terms of gender roles.

• Tackle the complex place of women in developing African culture
• Aidoo presents female protagonists locked within cultural context of being defined as objects, which in essence presents the idea of women as marginal. The plays search for female wholeness and socio-cultural authenticity rather than presenting them as victims dying in silence. These women questions wholeness in themselves, in their relationships with other and in the society; they searched for the lost voice of the feminine gender within the patriarchal society.
• Though ANOWA was written after THE DILEMMA OF A GHOST, it is set in a much earlier time period, making the presence of such a strong female character in that historical context all the more controversial, especially in relation to the difficult history of the African complicity in the transatlantic slave trade.
• Interesting that though Anowa’s choices are even stronger in terms of rebelling against the traditional role of the African woman, she is not as ostracized as Eulalie in DILEMMA OF A GHOST, which highlights the discrimination traditional African culture harbors against this foreign, African-American woman
• A slight parallel can be drawn between OLD MAN & OLD WOMAN in Anowa and 1ST WOMAN & 2ND WOMAN in The Dilemma of a Ghost, in that they are seemingly outsiders in a sense, providing commentary on the families of the plays, as well as on the societies and cultures wholly, providing a greater understanding of the contexts of both plays as representations of and commentators on their cultures and social organization

Language in Aidoo's Plays

The majority of colonial and post-independence African literature has been written in European languages, predominantly English and French though the authors are all typically multi-lingual. In Ghana, for example there are three major language groups aside from English, many of which are broken up into numerous dialects. However, many successful African writers have managed to evoke, incorporate, and unveil cultural peculiarities that distinguish them from Western writers. The most prominent being the reliance on oral attributes.

Aidoo draws from the influences and intonations of oral literature:

Aidoo maintains the essence of oral literature by utilizing songs, prayers, and casually delivered proverbs, an oral art form that simultaneously offers advice under the guise of colorful metaphors, traditionally passed down throughout generations.

Language is approached and delivered with rhythmic patterns and a musicality that one would associate with poetry.

Though the title of Anowa is self-explanatory, the titles of both plays are worth considering. Anowa is said to mean "strength" in some translations of the word, which is appropriate considering her role in the play. Dilemma of a Ghost on the other hand could have a multitude of meanings, one being its relation to Eulalie's conversation with her mother's spirit. It is here where we learn that Eulalie is motivated by her a fervent impression her mother left on her before she died.
Language in Anowa
Characters commonly refer to one another by their title: "My husband, my wife, my ungrateful daughter, etc"

Descriptive phrases are written as singular nouns, which can be attributed to the complexities and layers of African languages. They appear as such when translated into European languages: "children-after-them", "the-mouth-that-eats-salt-and-pepper", "those-that-came-from-beyond-the-horizon", etc.

Series of rhetorical questions to tell stories.

Osam to Badua: "But don't other women leave their homes to go and marry? And do they stay away forever? Do they not return with their children to the old homestead to attend funerals, pay death debts, return for the feeding of their family stools?"

Characters rely on epetition as a means of enforcing an idea or belief, offering a demand, or when mocking another character. This happens mostly between Kofi and Anowa, appearing to be a display of chauvinism.

When Anowa disagrees with her husband Kofi about purchasing slaves, he mimicks her, "'Do not let me hear these words again.’ " and feels inclined to remind her that he isn't her son, although he consistently attempts to order her around.

Language in Dilemma of a Ghost
The play begins with a poem predominantly comprised of metaphors and personification.

African language mostly appears when a character mentions food or another tangible item.

Even when Ato's family is speaking in the Akan language, it is delivered in English, and only Eulalie's inability to understand them reveals that within the story, they are not speaking English. In this sense, language is effectively used as a means of deception and character distinction.

Naming appears to be of the most importance in this play as it not only assists the development and receptivity of characterization, but it also further informs the readers of the relationships within the story.

Eulalie appears to be most heavily utilized in Aidoo's arguable intent to use language as the means of tension. Eulalie refers to Ato as Native Boy which can stem from a number of reasons:

Possible envy of his connectivity to the continent.

Revealing the invisible tension and cultural wedge between the two of them on top of language barrier.

Towards the end of the play she asks him rhetorically, yet maliciously if he can understand English and even goes as far to refer to the other "natives", Ato's family, as savages.
Subject Matter
Class Interaction
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