By now, most of us have seen and heard about the latest series, “An African City” (shouts to Nicole Amartefio for bringing us this one!)… If you have not watched it then
shame on you SPOILER ALERT, because in this post we wanted to give our take on the show. Why? Well… because they are telling our whole lives on TV this is essentially the story of five women newly repatriated to Ghana from various parts of the western world, and we thought it was somehow relevant to our own lives. In their journey toward love the show is filled with characters of varying sensibilities that navigate through everything from getting sex toys cleared from customs to explaining to MP’s that anyone (including “clean looking girls”) can contract HIV/AIDS. There are funny moments, such as Makena always getting her period when she meets this fine, chocolatey man (see God speaking to her and she won’t listen? Nawa ooooo) … and there are the more emotional, girl-I-can-relate moments like when you bump into your ex with his new girlfriend and you are trying to decide which of you is cuter funnier better. Plus the outfits… GOOD GAWWWWD! hahaha… I mean, I just want everything I see all at once… they should totally do some kind of raffle to get all of the outfits from season 1, I’d enter… as long as it was rigged. #ghanaelectionsstyle #pinkslipsandall #Ghanataughtme LOL!
Moving on though…
I can totally relate to hanging with the girls at the gym or at some restaurant laughing and being generally frivolous. Apart from the daddys-got-connections-and-we-are-super-rich, I think most people can at least relate to having girls with whom you enjoy their company and have generally inappropriate conversation. I have heard a lot of critique about the relat-ability of the show to which I say pish posh. Can you relate to Kerry Washington in Scandal? Or Sansa in Game of Thrones? Or Joan in Girlfriends? The shows we love touch us, not necessarily because the characters or stories are themselves ‘relatable’, but because we identify with certain emotions and we are compelled by the story lines…
and that’s the greater point.
That maybe folks aren’t moved by the storyline or the emotion of the characters. I think when people say they can’t relate, they are either offended at the way returnee women are being displayed (see this Yesi Yesi Parody piece for more funny commentary) or, as stated before, are longing for more depth in the story.
I fall in the second boat.
I (mostly) love the show, but I am more excited to see what Season 2 has in store. I think most people are waiting in anticipation for something a little more meaty. Given the end of the first season, here are a few things I am looking forward to seeing in the next season.
Depth of Character
The thing about the characters is… at this point they are caricatures. Each of them fit neatly into a box. There’s the super christian one, the hyper sexual one, the ‘down-for-the-people” one… and I would just love a greater exploration of who they are as women. Their complexities. I think that would help us better understand their love lives, and it gives us another dimension. For example, Ngozi is a vegan in Ghana. Please… tell me… what. does.she.eat!? It would be fun to see her struggle bus through Max Mart or Makola trying to buy vegan foods or the scene where she invites folks over to dinner and everyone is like “Ermm… we don’t want to eat like rabbits” or “If I wanted to eat beans and leaves, I’d join the Rastas at Tawala” or some rendition of this since we know how vegan-phobe us Ghanaian folk can be (special shout to my vegan friend who is forever “enlightening” us.) Or even the main character and Segun… that is obviously a Nigerian name and she is obviously Ghanaian. The discussion on inter-tribal or intra- African relationships would be something fun to layer on there. I mean I know these are like 15 minute episodes but… can a sista dream? All in all…I think they have set the stage for us… I think we all love Sade and I want to better understand how she became so logical and rational and black and white about all her opinions (there has to be a story there… there’s always a story). I would also like to know more about the sugar daddy she has that she secretly wishes would take her seriously (from Episode 2). There are a number of black web series’ like That Guy and Awkward Black Girl that manage to use 8- 10 minutes really well to offer you depth of character without making it super complicated or deep. I think An African City could also join those ranks.
More Nuance on Returnee Living
The pains of trying to do things, without paying bribe.
I liked that they tried to hit on issues of the returnee experience such as buying an apartment, clearing things at the port and how horrible the customer service is (seems like Zainab can never get her water done right). I think there is a lot of room to grow from there. For example, Zainab works for herself. That is probably RIFE with interesting stories like trying to register a business or engage government institutions in any meaningful way. Or trying to hire employees who do shady things or just are not up to the task you have set out for them. Or… following Ngozi to church, there are so many interesting things to be said and documented about sexuality and the hyper christian experience. There are so many ways to explore love and returnee living and I would like to see some of these there too.
The ONLY boss with one s!
It’s funny that diversity is usually associated with tokenism and usually means adding the occasional person of color for visual effect. In this case, I just think not everyone needs to have gone to an ivy league or be highly connected. It would be great for us to get a better breadth of people, activities, sites and sounds in the country. After all, with all the exposure they have gotten, people are getting a glimpse of a Ghana many people did not even believe existed (yes, I get messages on facebook about how people had no idea <insert something human and ordinary> was in Africa). Trust me…
the hood is watchin’— I mean, people are taking note. I am hoping there will be a little more breadth. Though I understand that this was a pilot season, limited funding, limited sponsorships, limited time (heard they filmed the entire season in 6 weeks— amazing!). So now that the ball is rolling (and the money is maybe flowing), lets get a little more! A trip to Takoradi? A visit to a cyto school (doesn’t Zainab work at an NGO… why is she living so high and mighty while I struggle bus.. I am not jealous… I am just saying… but I may be a little jealous though…)? It would be really cool to have an episode with Kalybos (the only boss with one ‘s’— duh!) trying to hit on them and they return his genuine interest with general disgust— as returnee girls tend to do when, say, the occasional kebab seller asks for your number (because is he going to call you on his Nokia? and meet you at the trotro station? and take you to a ‘spot’ for malt and kebabs?! … chale, boys abr3 ampa— just ask Kalybos!) Pluuuuus.. I am going to need for their lights to go off in one episode… just one. It’s the right thing to do. I am not saying they should do a poverty tour, or put tro-tro mates in there for good measure… I am just saying, find creative ways to highlight the diverse array of imagery that is here in Ghana.
All in all, An African City is a breath of fresh air, precisely because it’s different from the mainstream everyday of what we see and experience on television here in Ghana— and really in the world. They are appealing to the modern, urban chic young, ambitious afropolitan woman of this century, and so while you’ll have to excuse the general pomposity of it all, you do have to embrace the fun and free spirit of the characters. I love where it’s going and I can’t wait for season 2!
Have you been watching the show? What are your favorite parts and what would you change? Sound Off!
An African City: Episode 1- The Return