Publication Details

Simoes da Silva, A. J. (2005). Myths, Traditions and Mothers of the Nation: Some Thoughts on Efua Sutherland's Writing. EnterText, 4 (2), 254-270.


Focusing in some detail on three of her plays, this paper addresses the work of Efua Theodora Sutherland, arguably one of Ghana’s foremost literary figures, and one of Africa’s most influential dramatists. Specifically, the paper proposes that in spite of a considerable body of critical work devoted to her writing, she remains surprisingly little known outside the specialist fields of African literature, and indeed even theatre. I will then seek to relate this assertion to her status as a woman writer in Africa, and to the challenges her conflation of traditional African cultural forms and Western dramaturgy create. Sutherland incorporates Greek theatre (Edufa overtly reworks Euripides’ Alcestis) with African oral story telling, myths, folktales (The Marriage of Anasewa draws on Anasegoro, a Ghanaian dramatic form) and the printed word (the use of the bookshop in Foriwa) as the parts that give rise to a new culture, in a new Ghana. According to Chikewenye Okonjo Ogunyemi, through her writing, with its overt use of forms and traditions of yesteryear, Sutherland “comments on the present, showing that human nature has not changed; she is, however, determined to change the inhuman situation in Ghana and, by extension, the African world.”