BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
Accra is the African city that sees the return of five glamorous women in their twenties and thirties, all with exotic accents that sound nothing like African. As the city bursts with activity, these women try to carve a life for themselves having spent most of their lives away from home. They recount their struggles and successes through the eyes of Nana Yaa (MaameYaa Boafo), who is the main character of the series. Nana Yaa is born to Ghanaian parents and keeps a natural afro she adores. She was a journalist in New York and attempts to become one in Africa as well. She used to be in a relationship with Nigerian-American hunk, Segun, for seven years, and though their relationship is said to have ended at the beginning of the series, she still has feelings for him and is convinced that he does same until the episode ‘He Facebooked me’ where Segun sends her an invitation to his wedding.
Created and directed by Nicole Amarteifio, the first season of An African City has eight twelve-minute episodes. While the series addresses an array of everyday problems including relationship, security and individuality, one thing is consistent in every episode: Sex! Whether it is sung about or talked about or joked about or acted upon, An African City is sex-y (known to many as the African version of American series Sex and the City), which should not be surprising, seeing that its main cast is a group of sexy women. The characters are varied and have unique identities. Ngozi (Esosa E) is Nigerian, a reserved religious girl who is saving herself for marriage. Sade (Nana Mensah) is loud and promiscuous through the entire series, which is ironic because her father is a famous Nigerian pastor. Makena (Marie Humbert) is Kenya-born and a lawyer, a divorcee who smokes. Zainab (Maame Adjei) is Sierra Leone-born and doesn’t say much.
The conversations in An African City are hilarious, believable and intentional. The constant rivalry that takes place between Ngozi and Sade is interesting to watch, considering their characters and beliefs are at extremes of each other. Nana is sweet, and creates a balance, and while Zainab is barely noticed, Makena’s seeming aloofness adds its spice to the friendship in a way that is hard to explain. This is probably because she has once been married, and seems to attract an interesting array of men, ranging from the too smooth to the too eccentric.
I find the episodes ‘Custom Officer’ and ‘The Belly Button Test’ most relatable and real problems Africans encounter in Africa. When the Customs officer says “She is Nigerian, she does drugs” of Sade, you almost want to cry at the sad realities of some of the things associated with Nigeria, even within Africa. It sounds silly in ‘The Belly Button Test’ when the hairdresser says to Nana: “Madam, but why don’t you perm your hair?” To think we cannot be entirely African in our own continent is utterly disappointing. These are some issues the series addresses. The photography is brilliant. The pictures are bright and the camera angles are interesting, showing Accra in its best light.
The question would be how the women manage to be so flamboyant all the time. Makena is obviously jobless, and apart from the occasional mention of articles written by Nana, we don’t see the other ladies exactly doing anything that brings money except go on dates and hangouts and talk about sex (unless this is what brings the money). The creator aims to portray African women as classy and away from the ‘single story’ of poverty and subdual, and while we are all up for that, especially as the African narrative has centred around these for so long, I can’t help wondering if the show equates class with sex. Sex is an integral part of human existence, but it gets old when every episode has to do with the need for men and sex and validation, a need that seems to trump every other. Remind me what irony means again.
In An African City, African men have issues. Big issues. And this is a single story on its own. In the episode ‘Condom Etiquette’ for example, it just so happens that all the men in their lives seem to have poor etiquettes. You watch the next episode and the men are worse. In a bid to show women as strong, it appears to show men as weak.
Its shortcomings notwithstanding, An African City is just how we like it; short, breezy, and down-to-earth. It makes too many assumptions, but it does great in showcasing the life of Africans in Africa, especially those who have lived in the diaspora for so long. Most importantly, it entertains, and does it well.