PEGGY APPIAH PASSES ON
Source: CENTRE FOR INTELLECTUAL
Peggy Appiah, well-known British writer on books
for children passed away in Kumasi on Saturday February 11 2006 at 84. She
had spent over 50 years in this city since she left England after her marriage
to the Ghanaian lawyer, statesman and presidential advisor, the late Joe Appiah.
For all these years, she Chronicled both as a profession
and hobby, traditional folklore of the Asante people- village and forest lives
as well as natural history-especially behaviour of birds in over 30 books. Some
of the books were reflected as text in the prescribed reading of primary
and secondary schools in Ghana and of the West Africa Examination Council. At onetime and it is still the case, she had the best collection of Asantegold-weights in the world with featured exhibitions from Australia to
the United States.
To an earlier Anglo-Ghanaian generation however, Peggy Appiah, highly respected in the traditional and national ruling classes (
the palace of the King of Asante where she had since 1954 been welcomed
by Asantehenes Osei Kyeretwie or Prempeh II, Otumfuo Opoku Ware II whose wife
was related to Joe Appiah and the current king, Osei Tutu II) but more
importantly, beloved by the working class of her adopted society who if for nothing,
admired her simplicity from that high, the daughter of the British Chancellor of
the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps and Isobel Swithenbank.
Cripps who was Chancellor from 1947-50 was credited with
the British economic reforms after World world II and was one of the avant-garde
we could label today as cosmopolitan or globalist (a promoter of
racial intergration and harmony in London of the 1940s), an agenda which Kwame
Anthony Appiah his grandson has taken to the world intellectual stage as a godfather.
Peggy Cripps, ( Mrs. Appiah maiden name) was definitely
aware of her political family in the English aristocracy and was therefore used
to media exaggeration and negative publicity. Her marriage as perhaps the
most sensational romantic expression between a black and a white, a subject of
the Queen in the evening of empire and leading daughter of a leftist
Labour grandmaster, was a puzzle in the British media at the time.
To champions of decolonisation, the class of students agitators
(which included Joe Appiah ) in the 1950s however, it was
a silver-lining or a rainbow coalition of God's children. At the time of
Peggy's marriage Ghana was on the cutting phase to independence and Kwame Nkrumah
had assumed leadership of government business. Nkrumah was supposed to be the
Best Man at the wedding but eventually passed the responsibility to George
Padmore,his Afro-Caribbean advisor and eminent Pan-Africanist.Ever since, Peggy
Appiah lived more like a Ghanaian then British and contributed to the
socio-economic development of the country in ways little known because of her humility.
Late last year, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science
and Technology awarded her an honorary degree; some few years before,
Queen Elizabeth awarded her the MBE for her contribution to
Anglo-Ghanaian relationships and the Ashanti Region branch of the Ghana
Journalists Associations gave her their best prize. Her works apart from paintings
of scenes of Kumasi included best sellers in the 1970s such as : A Smell
of Onions, Tales of an Asante Father, The Ring and Gold, The
Pineapple Child and other Tales from Ashanti. Her last major work was an
epic dictionary ofAshanti(Akan) proverbs (over 7,000 of them and the most updated) titled: BU MEBE: AKAN PROVERBS which she edited with Kwame Anthony Appiah, her son and
a leading world philosopher currently at Princeton University and IvorAgyeman-Duah, a Ghanaian author and presiden! tial biographer. The launch
of that book closed her literary generation and it was only rewarding that all
the sectors were represented at the British Council Hall in Accra: The British
High Commissioner to Ghana, the Director of the British Council, eminent artists
and writers-Ama Atta Aidoo, J.H. Kwabena Nketia, Nana S. K. B. Asante on the
high table and a packed audience.
Peggy Appiah's philanthropism was very much felt at theJachie School for the Blind which she and her other children( Ama Appiah
who works in Namibia for the Southern African Development Community, Adwoa
Appiah who lives in Nigeria with her husband, an eminent Nigerian business
executive and former Finance Minister of Lagos State and Abena Appiah a
businesswoman) helped to establish. This is apart from the many secondary and
university students who owed their education through her generosity.
Again not to talk of the St. Georges Church in Kumasi where she
made financial contribution towards the building of its chapel.
Peggy Appiah played an advisory role in the establishment of the Centre
for Intellectual Renewal in Kumasi founded by her literary friend and
collaborator Ivor Agyeman-Duah According to her wishes, Peggy Appiah would be buried at theTafo cemetary in Kumasi next to the tomb of her beloved Joe Appiah May
hersoul rest in perfect peace.