returnee

Return of the Mac: An African City is BACK!

IT’S BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Last week, I had the privilege of moderating the panel following the screening of one of the episode of An African City Season 2. This was quite exciting for me as I had already written a post about what I hoped to see in the next season. We have all been counting down and waiting patiently, wondering if we were going to get snubbed like how Frank Ocean did us with that follow up album (…still waiting…). Thankfully, the hour has come and we can all live vicariously through the lives of our favorite returnee ladies in An African City.


At the Screening that took place, hosted by the phenomenal organization She Leads Africa, I was able to ask some interesting questions of Nicole Amarteifio (Creator), Maame Adjei (Actress/ Co- Producer) and Esther Armah (Writing Consultant). My favorite was understanding the evolution of the show in terms of financing, character development and growth, and some of the thinking that went into the story lines. But I think what stuck with me the most was the ‘start-up’ nature of it all. This idea that people, many of whom were not actresses or writers or creatives in their professional lives, had evolved and come together behind this vision. The idea that everyone was sort of feeling their way in the dark, and along the way, gaining some light and growing and reflecting that in the product that we were seeing. Following the event, I just had to ensure I ordered my season because, well, I believe in being a foundation builder. I also believe, in a world where #oscarssowhite can trend for weeks on end, there is something to be said about African women writing their own stories and seeing the entire production undergo this creative metamorphosis in the public eye. All of this under the umbrella of the work being done by She Leads Africa to empower women to be entrepreneurs in their own right, whether that’s being innovative on the job or branching out and being better for yourself.

After all of this woman power, hear me roar-ness… I, being the support-and-uplift type of sister that I am (yup… bragging on myself… get like me), purchased my season and watched the first episode with my friends. I have to say, I was not disappointed. I laughed. I side eyed. I related. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It is evident that there will be a lot of character development because we are getting a chance to see their lives outside of hanging with each other. We are seeing them at work, at church… in the bedroom, and we are watching them interact with co-workers, drivers, and family.

 

Had to screen shot this fine, FINE brotha.. God bless his Mama.

What I’m also excited about is the social commentary on returnee living beyond just narrating their lives. This includes a line that I fully appreciate:

In America, one drop of black makes you black. But in Ghana, one western experience makes people question your Ghanaianess.

This is the realist thing I never wrote and I appreciate the direction of that discussion. Anyone could be a returnee depending on who you are talking to, how you are talking and what you are talking about. I also think this is a theme that comes up in various ways… this negotiation of one’s identity in various circumstances living on the continent. I could write a whole thesis on the subject but I’m pretty sure the world would rather watch a 20 minute episode instead, #YouTubeGenerationtinz.

In any case, I can’t wait to see where the season goes. Have you purchased your season’s pass? C’mon… Support and uplift ya’ll!

Tell us your thoughts on the first episode of Season 2? Did it live up to expectations?  #soundoff in the comments!

Short PSA: We’re Changing Things!

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We’re switching things up a little… just a little. We’ve had a good time rambling about relationship topics, but there’s definitely more to our lives and the world at large than love and pursuit of martial bliss. And more generally, talking solely about love.dating.sex can get some way… there’s just so much more to our returnee experience that we think y’all are missing out on hearing about 🙂 So we’re opening up the discussion to other topics! These will include, but not be limited to:

-working in Ghana as returnee women
-gender and race issues
-religion
-general hot topics and popular culture

Don’t worry, we won’t slack on the juicy relationship stuff though!

~Love, RR

PS – If you want to guest post for us, please email us at: ramblingroommates@gmail.com

Guest Post from a Male Reader: My Introduction to the Returnee Woman (and some words of advice) – Pt. 1

FaviconBig-300x300Let me start by expressing my previous profound ignorance about the whole returnee demographic. Maybe I need to get out more, but to be honest, I hadn’t really given much thought to the ‘plight’ of the Ghanaian who was in cultural limbo. I only vaguely thought about returnees once, when I read an interview featuring  Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond.  She is the author of the Simon and Schuster published “The Powder Necklace”, a novel loosely based on the time her parents uprooted her from her New York existence straight into the unforgiving boarding school system of Ghana. Even with that, she left Ghana soon after that. Little did I know there was an entire thriving community of returnees in Ghana (vibrant and distinctive enough to be considered as their own ethnic group, if YesiYesi is to be taken seriously).

That all changed when I stumbled across Love African, scratch that, Rambling Roommates. Stumbled is not the accurate term here, because the blog was introduced to me by Amma via email. She found me through my blog Life in Kumasi.  Yeah, so I guess it’s beginning to make sense to you how I was so clueless about returnees, being a Siano** and all. Here’s the thing – I do know a few people who lived a while in the US or UK or U-name-it. Case in point, my three best friends all spent the better parts of their childhood in England, Canada and Germany respectively. But I don’t think they quite earn the returnee tag because they came back before they, you know, went over to the dark side (just kidding, indulge me). Then there’s my cousin, who was in Accra for like a week. I guess she would qualify as a returnee, if she had stayed. Then there’s my other cousin who came back from the US after about 10 years. Still, not quite a returnee in my estimation because he was already a teenager when he and the family moved over to the Land of the Brave. Or maybe he is, I don’t know. I’m no expert on this returnee thing. I hadn’t even heard the term before I read Rambling Roommates. And yes, even though I’m a verified Siano, that is surprising, because I happen to know many, many words.

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In a strange concatenation of events, I found out about An African City, courtesy Leila Djansi, soon after finding out about returnees. Does that ever happen to you? You spend your entire life not knowing about something, then in a space of like a week, you discover it from 3 or 4 different places independently? This swell storm of events led me to ask: Is there really a dating problem for returnee women? From watching the show and reading Rambling Roommates, it seems to me that at least some of these perceived problems are easily solved. In An African City, the women give the impression they’re looking for love, but we see them to be mostly more interested in sex. Everyone knows when you’re pursuing sex, you tend more toward variety but when you’re pursuing love, you move closer to exclusivity. So if you’re changing guys every so often, but in the meantime you say you’re waiting for the one, then I don’t really get that.

And then there’s Ngozi. In the show, she abstains from sex, and she seems to be really trying to find someone to settle down with. But if anything, she’s more unsuccessful than the others. In the first episode, she said she dated a man for a month, and the whole time the man never mentioned he was married. I think one solution for Ngozi-related dating problems is getting help from the local talent. Obviously I’ve heard of non-returnee Ghanaian women who have dated married men, but it’s not so often I hear about them dating a married man without knowing his marital status (though, of course, it does happen). There are signs that would be obvious to the indigenous Ghanaian woman that a returnee woman might be oblivious to. Having female friends who know the Ghanaian system is an indispensable resource for a returnee lady. But women, who are infamous for being catty with each other (no chauvinism intended), sometimes find it hard to get along. And it appears to me the returnee woman is no different. However, if there really is such a dating problem, I don’t see a better solution than having a close friend who has been on the ground here all the time you have been away. Ngozi could sure use one.

1461855_263166813837840_380498752_nTo conclude, I hope to meet and interact more with returnees from here on out. I’ll probably have to make sure I get a Harvard degree in the meantime, though, so I’ll fit in better. All I’ve got is a KNUST*** education. Was that a low blow? Nah, I don’t think so.

**Siano means Kumasi (or someone who comes from Kumasi)

***KNUST: Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (located in Kumasi)

Love, Returnee Style: An African City Season 2

photo (1)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…

 

631159bc-f32a-4994-ac8e-3ef10d988d75I 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.

  1. Depth of Characteranafricancity-thereturn

    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.

  2. More Nuance on Returnee Living

    The pains of trying to do things, without paying bribe.

    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.

  3. Diversity

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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