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FEMINIST CONSCIOUSNESS: AMA ATA AIDOO SPEAKS IN ANOWA

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FEMINIST CONSCIOUSNESS: AMA ATA AIDOO SPEAKS IN ANOWA
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  1 FEMINIST CONSCIOUSNESS: AMA ATA AIDOO SPEAKS IN  ANOWA GIDEON ASANTE YEBOAH Email:  Sevengreatwise@yahoo.com  +233546113565/+233571642793  Abstract  Ama Ata Aidoo’s play Anowa is based on a traditional folktale of the legend of a daughter in the oral literature of Ghana. Aidoo portrays Anowa as the modern daughter of the tale and locates her experiences in the heritage of the imperialism, slavery, economic exploitation, and male dominance. Two another importance voices in the play are Badua, Anowa’s mother, who, is held responsible for Anowa’s disobedient behaviour and an Old Woman, who becomes the mouthpiece of the society. The paper attempts to discuss issues of f  eminism in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Anowa.  The novel’s cen tral character, Anowa is used as a prism through which I seek to reflect on the centrality of feminism and I employed a close reading and analysis of the primary text and other related  secondary materials to expand my argument. In doing the discussion, the paper is divided into three sections. The first section provides introduction, theoretical framework and review of empirical studies. The second section provides brief background and synopsis of the text. The third  section discusses thematic issues of feminism in Anowa and concludes the essay. The thrust of this  paper is that feminism is the dominant issue in Aidoo’s Anowa.   Introduction The notion of male superiority permeates a number of societies and religions. It is not surprising that the concept of feminism has also emerged with a strong political agenda in many African communities. No doubt, such feminist movements are born of society’s failure to place women alongside men in the arena of activity (Heilbrun & Stimpson, 1975). African feminists are concerned about the continued marginalization of African women under the three-striped banner  2 of culture, tradition and religion. It is this growing awareness of women’s oppression and the need to redress the situation that has moved many African woman writers to take a feminist stance. Feminism has thus become the spade with which Afri can women have ‘dug the grounds of imaginative writing and planted the seed of an auth entic female portraiture’ (Ekpa , 2000).  Nevertheless, although feminism has been severely attacked by African critics as a purely Western ideology (a view which will be addressed below), the movement certainly plays an indispensable role in the African woman’s struggle to rise above the murky waters of patriarchal dominance. In the book Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism , Mohanty (1991) o  bserves that ‘third world women have always engaged with feminism, even if the label has been rejected in a number of instances’. The Nigerian feminist critic , Ko lawole seems to share Mohanty’s view in this regard. In an article on re-conceptualizing African gender theory, Kolawole draws attention to the ambivalence and shifting positions of scholars and authors such as Ama Ata Aidoo of Ghana, the  Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta, Tsitsi Dangarembga of Zimbabwe and the South African writer Miriam Tlali, in identifying with feminism. She points out, further, that ‘most African women scholars agree that African women’ s muting or invisibility is not desirable or justifiable, irrespective of ideological polarity and diversities in conceptuali zing gender’ (Kolawole, 2004 ). Literature Review Feminist Theory There are numerous theories that could help explain human society, human beings as well as their characters and disposition. Feminism srcinates from the Latin word ‘femina’. ‘Femina’ is a term that describes women’s issues. It is clear that whatever feminism means to different people, it revolves primarily around the female experience. Feminism began in Europe in the late eighteenth century due to the struggle for wo men’s right ( World Book Encyclopedia , 1984). Mary Wollstone  3 (1992), and John Stuart Mills (1809) publications were the early major contributions to feminist literature. In 1920, the voting rights of women was achieved, feminism in Europe and America suffered a lull until it was revived in the 1960’s through Betty Friedan (1963). There have been series of submissions by the women right activists and defenders of feminist theory. Tong (1992)  posits that: Feminist theory is not one but many theories or perspectives, attempts to describe women’s o  ppression to explain its causes and consequences and to  prescribe strateg ies for women’s liberation. There is no place in other countries of the world, where women do not face challenge(s) in the society. Arthur, (1969) argues that our status as a woman has to do with things that are happening to us. She asserts that women are facing some challenges that men are not facing in the society. For instance, rape, polygamy without due information, re-marrying widow, women inheritance, women trafficking, early marriage, as the core women duties. The main thrust of feminism lies in its strive to fight for women’s right against oppression most especially, in  the area of marriage. The major proponent of this theory sees marriage institution as methodologically oriented, which should be procedurally pursue. African writers have artistically constructed issues of feminism into their literary pieces to achieve progress. Empirical studies on Feminism Beyond any doubt, definitely, there are various perspectives on the issue of women in the society. Indeed, there are many great deal of work on the issues that have to do with women character generally in life. Notable African women writers, such as Nawal el-Saadawi, Mariama Bâ, Bessie Head, Buchi Emecheta, Ama Ata Aidoo, Flora Nwapa, Grace Ogot, Tsitsi Dangarembga and Assia Djebar, have written literature that over the years has been interpreted as feminist in terms of their  4 revolutionary messages and political undertones. In Campbell’s provocative book  Arguing with the Phallus , she sums up a potent feminist-enabling argument in the psychoanalytical reading of the problems of women in Africa and Asia . The West’s feminist establishment critics find Emecheta’s novel, The Joys of Motherhood  , a good resource for fortifying the charges of male chauvinism. The level of what might be regarded as disagreement in The Joys of Motherhood   is dissonant. It is a world of terrible male license and liberty, of crass male negligence and all sorts of abominable acts of dissolution and infidelity and fecklessness and polygamous chaos. Patriarchal brutality and insensitivity are perpetual, recidivistic, or even primitive. The author takes us from a declining tradition that has no difficulty passing on its excesses to the modern generation. In Flora Nwapa, the  Lake Goddess  is there for both man and woman. Her work expresses an awareness of the root of most of the crisis that bedevils human society. The great theme of the relationship between humanity and the supreme deity is the hub of her thought. Nwapa does not engage the patriarchal construct of the nature of deities, the ugly and sometimes disgraceful contradictions between the projections of maleness in these deities and the actions of men in society. Her concern is not with dichotomies and the dreadfully flawed epistemological structures that perpetuate these dichotomies. Her concern is in how to put difference under a glare that effortlessly exposes its innards. In Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost  , Eulalie, who is Ato‘s wife, has to fight for her rights as a woman so that such rights can be respected by Ato and his people. She does not understand why she always has to consider the opinion of Ato and his people in whatever she does and says while they, on the other hand, never considered her as an individual who is entitled to her privacy and personal opinion on certain issues. After all, she is Ato‘s wife and not his slave. Synopsis of  Anowa  5 In  Anowa , a beautiful, talented young woman named Anowa rejects all the suitors her parents approve and instead marries Kofi Ako, the man of her choice. Anowa and Kofi quickly discover that they have almost nothing in common, and Kofi tries to drive Anowa away. Refusing to be divorced without reason, Anowa repudiates Kofi's insinuations of barrenness a common accusation leveled against African women in childless marriages and instead blames Kofi for the failure of their marriage. Completely deflated by this threat to his manhood, Kofi kills himself, and Anowa commits suicide, overwhelmed by the futility of attempting to find meaning in life. Anowa is set during a significant period in the colonial history of Africa's Gold Coast, and the ethical implications of colonialism and slavery heighten the dramatic action, revealing conflicting attitudes toward such issues as wealth and slavery. Review of Anowa  as a Feminist Text Frías (2003)  An Interview with Ama Ata Aidoo: “I learnt my  First Feminist Lessons in Africa, ”  posits that in  Anowa the protagonist rejects the prescription of an arranged marriage, chooses her own lover, and leaves her hometown. Barren, but actively participating in her husband’s financial  success-both making use of her “mouth” and her “head” - Anowa exiles herself from the domestic space of the home, and from the conscriptions of motherhood, but pays a very high price for her stubborn resistance and her transgressive attitude. Lambert (2005)  Ama Ata Aidoo’s Anowa:  performative practice and the postcolonial subject   analyzed  Anowa  as a critique of the ideologies imposed upon the African postcolonial subject. Lambert argued that Aidoo troubles the current  post-colonial African identity that is forced to balance the unequally yoked culture of modernity and tradition leading to a state of ambivalence. Paramount to this study is the African woman who is faced with the complexities of European influence and traditional customs while expected to uphold the fluctuating status of daughter, wife, and mother.   Lambert concludes that Anowa is a
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