Certain Winds from the South by Ama Ata Aidoo
In Certain Winds from the South by Ama Ata Aidoo we have the theme of struggle, hardship, strength, unity, silence, choice, resilience and perseverance. Taken from her No Sweetness and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person though for the majority of the story it is a conversational piece. What is also interesting about the narrative style employed by Aidoo particularly M’ma Asana’s conversation with Hawa is the fact that at no stage does the reader hear Hawa speak. There is complete silence which may leave some readers to suspect that M’ma Asana is talking to herself. Symbolically this may be important as Aidoo may be suggesting that women at the time the story was written did not necessarily have a voice in a male dominated society. They were not heard and were in essence made to feel as though they should be silent. Aidoo also appears to be exploring the theme of struggle and hardship. Throughout the story there is a sense that life is difficult for M’ma Asana. She has sole responsibility for looking after herself and her family. There is no male to help her. Which may be important as Aidoo could be suggesting that there is a disconnection between male and female. Something that is noticeable physically by the fact that Hawa’s father is dead and Issa intends to move south. There is no sense of unity between male and female which may again suggest that the society that existed at the time the story was written was male dominated with women not necessarily being treated equally.
What is also interesting about the story is that both the male characters mentioned in the story have a choice. Hawa’s father and Issa both decide of their own free will to go south. Whereas neither of the women in the story (M’ma Asana and Hawa) have a choice. They must stay in the village as homemakers. Their role appears to be defined by the actions of the male. It is also noticeable that M’ma Asana is a strong woman. She has borne the loss of Hawa’s father and had to rear Hawa on her own without any assistance from others (male or otherwise). This may be important as Aidoo may be suggesting that not only is M’ma Asana strong but she is also resilient undefeated by her circumstances. Regardless of what may have happened to her in life M’ma Asana has persevered and overcome any difficulty that she may have encountered. It is also possible that Aidoo is suggesting that some of the difficulties that M’ma Asana has encountered in her life have in reality been other people’s problems (the war). Though it is M’ma Asana who has paid the price.
Symbolically the cola-nuts may also be important. It may be a case that Aidoo is using them to symbolise struggle. Just as the cola-nuts are bad so too are the circumstances that M’ma Aidoo has found herself in throughout her life. The fact that M’ma Asana also spits out the cola-nuts suggests that she may overcome any difficulty she will be forced to endure in life. Which would again play on the theme of strength. The fact that there is a physical distance between M’ma Asana and Hawa’s father and now between Hawa and Issa may also be symbolically significant. It is possible the by introducing a distance between male and female that Aidoo is suggesting that both sexes not only think differently but also act differently to each other. For the female in the story the most important element of their lives is family whereas Hawa’s father made a decision to become a soldier and fight another man’s war. Also Issa has the option or choice of cutting grass in the village but chooses instead to go south. The reality being that though it may not have been both men’s intention they have abandoned their families.
The end of the story is also interesting as Aidoo appears to be further exploring the theme of perseverance. Despite all that has happened to her M’ma Asana is able to carry on with her life. After she tells Hawa about her father M’ma Asana prepares to go to the market. A normal activity which suggests that M’ma Asana has an ability to persevere. Life must go on and M’ma Asana knows this. She is not prepared to live her life focusing on the past rather she moves forward daily despite it being a struggle. At no stage in the story does M’ma Asana give up. It is also possible that by telling Hawa about her father M’ma Asana is hoping that Hawa will not give up either now that she knows that Issa has gone south. As to whether Hawa has the same strength as M’ma Asana is difficult to say as she remains silent throughout the story. The reader never fully knowing her strengths or her weaknesses. If she is as resilient as M’ma Asana she will persevere. Remaining undefeated by her circumstances. Regardless of Issa’s activities she may very well equal her mother’s drive and commitment to keep moving forward. Despite everything that has happened to her.