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 folkore 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 one time and it is still the case, she had the best collection of Asante gold-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 trad! itional 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 Pineaple Child and other Tales from Ashanti. Her last major work was an ecpic dictionary of Ashanti(Akan) proverbs (over 7,000 of them and the most updated) titled: BU ME BE: AKAN PROVERBS which she edited with Kwame Anthony Appiah, her son and a leading world philosopher currently at Princeton University and Ivor Agyeman-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 the Jachie 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 financi! al 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 the Tafo cemetary in Kumasi next to the tomb of her beloved Joe Appiah May her sould rest in perfect peace.