A new web series about five young, dynamic women living in Accra, Ghana is getting tons of buzz and being hailed as the African version of “Girlfriends,” and “Sex and the City.”
Starring actresses Nana Mensah, Esosa Edosomwan, Marie Humbert, MaameYaa Boafo, and Maame Adjei, “An African City” follows the friends as they navigate returning back home from living abroad, friendship, and relationships. Amarteifio spoke with AfriPOP! about how the show came about, comparisons to Sex and the City, and working on a second season.
What spurred this idea for you?
I was sitting in Ghana watching re-runs of ‘Sex and the City’ and I just began to wonder, ‘What is the Ghanaian version – or the African version – of this show? I enjoyed the openness, the vulnerability of the characters on SATC…and started to wonder about these vulnerabilities in the context of being a Ghanaian returnee back on the continent. Also, I have been in international development for many years and I figured that if I did embark on such a project, this could be a moment to change the narrative of the African woman. The African woman does not always have to be the face of an anti-poverty campaign; rather, she can be the face of everything beautiful, trendy and modern.
It speaks to so many of our experiences as expats, was this partly biographical?
Yes. I wanted to tell the story of returnees; their struggles and what it is like to readjust to life on a continent quite different from the continent in which they were raised and have become accustomed to. I also liked the complexity of self-identity. That said, I share a lot in common with the five girls on the show; they are all a little part of me and other returnees I know or have met.
Why make it a web series and not shop it on a major network in Ghana or anywhere in Africa?
I was inspired by Issa Rae of ‘Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl.’ I like that she got to do it her way. I like that she had absolute creative freedom. I like that she could engage the online audiences directly. I liked the “social” element of the show, people responding right there on the YouTube platform and carrying the conversation onto Facebook and Twitter. That’s what is so great for creatives today – we have the tools we need to move forward on projects without the need to depend on top TV executives.
It’s being called the “Sex and the City” for African women. Is this how you’d like to see it?
My filmmaker friends have warned me against this, but I don’t mind. I was first inspired by SATC, by the openness of the ladies to talk so openly about love and life in a way that I had never seen before. So, I’m honored by the comparison. And, I think we need women on this continent to talk more openly – most honestly – about their journey. At the same time, while An African City might have been inspired by SATC, the web series will still find its own voice, its own unique identity.
Why, in your opinion, do we need a “Sex and the City” for African women?
I think SATC did something for the confidence of the American woman; I want AAC to do that for the African woman.
How do you respond to the critique that the show is portraying a very middle-class, and privileged, view of Africa?
Why not? The portrayal of Africa in mainstream media is typically one of poverty, is there not room for another portrayal? Why does the African woman always have to be synonymous with poverty, AIDS and maternal health? Why can’t the African woman be synonymous with affluence, independence and glamour?
I especially loved the part about not romanticizing Africa. Is this something you find a lot of expats doing?
We do romanticize the continent! But, we can also be overly-critical. I think it’s about balance. And, I think it’s about being part of the solution.
Where would you like to see the show going?
It would be great to see the show one day on television, and even one day on the big screen. But, for now, I enjoy the fact that no matter where you are in the world you can tune in by going to our YouTube channel. I have received emails from African women sitting anywhere from Johannesburg to Los Angeles, from Toronto to Nairobi. I want African women around the globe to always have access to this show; that’s important to me.
What kind of feedback have you gotten?
There have been mixed responses, but overall it’s been positive. I have received emails from many women saying thank you… they are not use to seeing themselves on screen. And, it’s true. Most of the time when there is a role for an African woman, that role is not played by an African woman. Think: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency or the Winnie Mandela movie. Of course, people have certainly been commenting on the fashion. That was also important to me, to showcase fashions from up-and-coming fashion designers from Ghana. Music too. There are also many women thanking me for casting women with natural hair. That was important to me too. I was tired of only seeing black female actors on television, with natural hair, only when the movie was a period piece on slavery. No. You can rock your natural hair and be glamorous and beautiful; that’s the message we need out there among black women. Look at the market for fake hair on the African continent alone…it must mean that the wrong message is out there. I’m not saying anything against fake hair, but I am saying that natural hair should be valued more than it is…especially on our continent.
Over 50K views on YouTube. How are you celebrating?
Yes, over 50K views on episode 1 alone. I’m happy. It means people are interested in this story – another narrative on the African woman.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully a season 2. But, we’ll see how season 1 pans out.