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Efua Theodora Sutherland (June 27, 1924--January 2, 1996) was a Ghanaian playwright, children's author, and dramatist. Her best-known works include Fo...
Efua Theodora Sutherland (June 27, 1924--January 2, 1996) was a Ghanaian playwright, children's author, and dramatist. Her best-known works include Foriwa (1962), Edufa (1967), and The Marriage of Anansewa (1975).
She was born Efua Theodora Morgue in the Cape Coast region and moved to England to study at Homerton College and Cambridge University. After graduation, she moved back to her home Ghana and co-founded the cultural newspaper "Okyeame". Sutherland then taught at St. Monica's Training College before settling in Accra. In 1954 she married William Sutherland, for whom she had 3 children. During this time Sutherland experimented with drama, founding the Experimental Theatre Players in 1958 which later became the Ghana Drama Studio. Her plays were often based on traditional tales, but also borrowed from Western literature.
She founded the Ghana Drama Studio,the Ghana Society of Writers, the Ghana Experimental Theatre, and a community project called the Kodzidan (Story House). 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.
Efua Sutherland was born in Cape Coast, Gold Coast (now in Ghana). She studied at the Teacher Training College in Ghana. She then studied at Homerton College, Cambridge and at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.
When she returned to Accra, Ghana, Sutherland helped to establish the literary magazine Okyeame. She also founded the Ghana Drama Studio as a workshop for children's literature writers. The Studio soon became a training ground for Ghanaian playwrights. It is now the Writer's Workshop in the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon. She founded the Kodzidan (Story House) in Ekumfi-Atiwa.She was also a research fellow in literature and drama at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana.
In her works, Sutherland experimented with storytelling and other dramatic forms from indigenous Ghanaian traditions. Her plays transformed traditional African folktale conventions into modern dramatic theatre techniques.The best known of her 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, Sutherland transmutes traditional Akan 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.
Sutherland was also an author of works for children. These works included two animated rhythm plays, Vulture! Vulture! and Tahinta (1968), and two pictoral essays, Playtime in Africa (1960) and The Roadmakers (1961). Many of her short stories can be described as rhythmic prose poems. The Voice in the Forest, a book of the folklore and fairytales of Ghana, was published in 1983.