Vida was born on July 19th, 1978 in a small farming community in the Volta Region. She has three sisters and one brother. She enjoys music and dancing as much as she does writing.
Five Questions with Vida Ayitah [Note: This interview was conducted in May 2007]:
1. What do you think is the role of poetry in modern Ghanaian politics?
People listen to speeches delivered by their leaders. They also believe them. Sadly most of the promises made during the heat of desiring power never come to fruition. That is why people say politicians are liars. Hopefully, poetry can both give hope and awareness, and serve as a reminder of what our leaders are supposed to deliver to their people and the country they swore to serve and protect.
2. Why do you think Ghanaian poetry appears to be so dominated by men? Is it that men are writing more, or that women don't receive the same exposure, or something else? What do you think can be done to promote Ghanaian poetry written by women?
For ages, the Ghanaian woman has been known as the silent voice at home, meekly following in the husband’s steps. This has somehow created a situation where women in our society still expect our men to take the lead in just about every aspect of our lives. It’s not that men write more than women. It’s simply that we expect the men to be out there on top. But I think we’re breaking out of this dormant circle.
On the subject of promoting Ghanaian poetry written by women, I think every individual can contribute to this. We can set up support groups, by women for women, in our various communities to discuss and advise. In this regard, any woman interested in this idea should kindly contact me. We have to help ourselves if we expect help from outside. Gradually, I know the female voice will be just as loud and strong as that of our male counterparts.
3. Your poetry, like that of Kobena Eyi Acquah, seems to be strongly influenced by contemporary American and European writing, and perhaps less influenced by more "traditional" writing styles, as practiced by Atukwei Okai and others. Do you feel this is true? If so, why do you think you have developed this style?
I grew up reading Robert Browning. Hard as it was to understand him then, his way of expressing himself somehow stuck with me. I suppose this is because his was the first book of poems I laid hands on. Later I discovered Mr. Kobena Eyi Acquah and instantly fell in love with his writing. Basically I think every writer has his/her way of expressing thoughts and emotions. Sure we are influenced by what we see and read, especially at a young age. So yes, I can say I’m not very traditional in this regard. But my hope is that I am still able to convey the right message no matter which form it takes.
4. Would you consider "Atonement" as being primarily "historical" in focus, or as dealing with problems in current day Africa/Ghana?
"Atonement"... I really don’t know how the reader sees this. But it feels good – very good – to be freed from oppression and slavery. But our fight shouldn’t end with one group of people (outside) only to start with another (amongst ourselves). Leaders throughout Africa need to take a closer look at their people and do the best for them. Not just deliver big colorful speeches. Work must be done as well. Good work must be done.
5. "Atonement", with its mentions of wild crowds, "statues and monuments" and bringing back gold and timber "transformed into fine furniture" brings to mind the state in Ghana today during the "Ghana @ 50" celebrations. What is your view on these celebrations? Is it in line with your general criticisms presented in the poem?
I know that people all over the world deal with tragedy the best way they can. You don’t hang onto the past. But my feeling here, as expressed in "Atonement" is that we easily get blinded by what we see and forget the cost of our freedom. We all know what Nkrumah did for Ghanaians. His hopes and aspirations for this country. But do we see his dreams coming true? Who speaks for the men and women who lost their lives in the struggle for our freedom? Those people didn’t die just for some corrupt and greedy individuals to come to power and mock what they bled for. What did they die for? There is so much more to be desired of the people we trust and put into power.