By: Claire Nenninger
It’s amazing what you can discover while scrolling through Facebook nowadays, which is exactly what I was doing when I happened upon “An African City”. I don’t know what drew me in more, the unique concept of “Sex and the City” set in Africa, or the knockout fashion of the five fabulous main characters. Not to mention that the creator, Nicole Amarteifio, earned her master’s at Georgetown. Reasons aside, when I clicked on the article and saw the embedded first episode inside, I was hooked before I even finished reading.
“An African City” takes place in Accra, Ghana and follows five Ghanaian women who came of age overseas in the US or the UK, and then returned to the continent as adults. The show follows these women as they navigate their personal lives, professional lives, and, of course, sex lives in modern African society. Keep reading to learn more about the personalities, lifestyle, fashion, and mind behind my latest TV favorite.
The main character and narrator is Nana Yaa (also a Hoya), who returns to Ghana to find an emptied out closet and the unwanted attention of an old flame. However, my favorite character is certainly Sade, the most sexually liberated and stubborn of the five women. Her character is particularly highlighted in contrast to Ngozi, the kind-hearted, religious character who is waiting until marriage for anything below the neck. Then, there is the biracial lawyer Makena who returned to the continent without steady employment, and Zainab, the successful businesswoman who only trusts Pepto Bismol bought outside of Africa.
I cannot overstate how entertaining it is to watch these characters navigate the perplexing maze that is being a single woman in the city. Though I cannot personally relate to their lifestyle, culture, or background, their dating struggles seem to transcend our personal differences. In addition, I deeply appreciate how the show pushes the boundaries to pursue topics that aren’t often openly discussed, such as proper condom etiquette or the belly button test (you’ll have to watch to find out what that one is). Nothing is off limits when these five women get together, and it is positively refreshing.
It is important to recognize that these women do not represent the majority of young Ghanaians, but rather are members of the one percent. Whether their fathers work as the Minister of Energy, like Nana Yaa’s, or they live off of the benevolence of their many sugar daddies, like Sade, they can afford to constantly be eating out at the nicest restaurants, sitting poolside, or frequenting the best bars in Accra.
So while this show does try to portray a modern African city, it does not display the whole picture. Nonetheless, one of “An African City”’s best qualities is that you only need to relate to the characters on at least one level for the show to draw you in. Everything else just makes it all the more interesting to watch unfold.
If “An African City”’s riveting plot doesn’t draw you in, the fashion certainly will. I cannot take my eyes off this show’s drool-worthy fashion or the glam photoshoots that have resulted from it. Outside of what I had seen online or at Abissa (shout-out to the African Society of Georgetown), I sadly hadn’t been exposed to much African fashion before this show. But now, I am officially hooked. The bright colors, eye-popping patterns, and riveting shapes are simply to die for. Not to mention the ornate accessories, that will leave oversized jewelry lovers like myself ogling. I could fill an entire article with only their fierce, fashionable photos, and I highly encourage you to find more online.
Without further ado, I should give the mind behind the show the recognition that she deserves. Nicole Amarteifio is not only the creator of “An African City” but she is also the writer, co-director, and executive producer. She was gracious enough to let me ask her a few questions.
Thirty Seventh: “An African City” tells the real story of African women. Why do you think this perspective is so underrepresented and what are the consequences of this underrepresentation?
Nicole Amarteifio: There are consequences to any underrepresentation. Underrepresentation turns people into stereotypes, not the diverse, complex human-beings that we are. Underrepresentation prevents humans around the world from truly connecting; you can’t connect to one another through stereotypes. You can only connect on the things that make us human. Love, sex and relationships – those things certainly bring us together. These things connect us universally.
TS: What was the greatest hurdle you faced in creating the show?
NA: Financing it! Season one was self-funded. I took that risk. I don’t know where I got that kind of courage!
TS: Tell us a little about the fashion. Or a lot about the fashion. It’s too incredible not to discuss!
NA: There is so much talent on the continent of Africa. Musicians. Decor artisans. Fashion designers. The goal of “An African City” is to be a platform for all creatives. I wanted the world talking about our talent! I wanted the world moving the conversation from Jay-Z to Jayso, from Anthropology to DAAR Living, from Gucci to Christie Brown.
TS: Do you have a favorite fashion piece used on the show?
NA: I love everything! Right now I’m talking to Samantha White of Anansi Bags. I’m trying to convince her to make me something custom made, which she doesn’t typically do. But, I love the leather she uses mixed with the African print – I would want that look and feel in a practical bag that is functional for everyday use.
TS: Intersectionality is a hot topic right now. How do feel young African returnees, like yourself and the characters on the show, reconcile their American/British identities with their African identities?
NA: It’s a constant journey of self acceptance, reconciling two, sometimes three identities. It should be a point of constant celebration, but it’s not. My Ga uncles are constantly disappointed in me that I don’t speak our local language, but on the same accord I think I represent Ghana in a way that they should be proud of. Americans are constantly butchering my last name and deciding that they have the right to abbreviate it for their convenience. If they truly took the time to understand the meaning behind such a name, maybe they would respect it a bit more.
And Americans and their labels! They have decided that I am black, just black. But I am Naa Amerley Amarteifio. I’m Ga. I’m from Jamestown. My paternal grandmother was part of Ghana Women’s movement during the time of independence. My maternal grandmother was in one of the first documented interracial marriages in West Africa. You lose all that when you label me just one thing. I want the specificity of my blackness to be recognized. I don’t want the specificity of my blackness to be lost. This is probably why I am in television production. To ensure that nothing – nothing in the intersectionality – is lost.
TS: The show has been praised for pushing boundaries. What boundary would you like to push or what stereotype would you like to break next?
NA: Homosexuality. Abortions. As long as it helps push an online, global conversation, nothing is off the table!
TS: Do you have any favorite memories of Georgetown? Or maybe specific places in DC that you miss?
NA: The line at Georgetown Cupcakes is always so long that I have never been! I have to get there one day! In fact, I hope the owners think up a cupcake inspired by “An African City”.
As you can see, Amarteifio is a true inspiration. Plus, now you can watch the entire first season of her flawless show for free on youtube. Cheers ladies.