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New Web Series Celebrates Love and Culture in 'An African City'

Features
by Dara Mathis
June 6, 2014 10:19 AM
11 Comments
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An African City

In the initial installment of this two-part blog post, I gushed over the new web series First and how I’m completely taken with it. But there is one more web series you have to watch if you’ve not seen it yet.

When I interviewed Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo for mater mea, she told me about "An African City," a web series featuring five beautiful African women returning to the continent to live. I checked it out and was impressed at how well written it was. Show creator Nicole Amarteifio mines experiences from her own life to produce a series with candid dialogue and a comedic plot line.

The legacy of "Sex and the City" demands that any female-centered show about modern single life in “the city” hearken back to Carrie Bradshaw and company. But I was never a fan of SATC. I have seen and heard descriptions of An African City as SATC set in Africa, but I believe its cultural focus positions it closer to Mara Brock Akil’s "Girlfriends."

Like "Girlfriends," "An African City" hinges on sisterhood and cultural norms for its episodic stories. The protagonist, Nana Yaa, is a young, American-raised Ghanaian searching for love and success in her native country. Her girls, Ngozi, Zainab, Sade, and Makena are a delightful complement of snarky, cautious, intelligent, and hilarious voices to Nana Yaa’s own alternately confident and vulnerable character.

"An African City" relies on a deep frame of cultural reference with the setting of Accra, Ghana, playing almost a sixth-man role in the narrative. Each of the five women spent significant amounts of time abroad in the US or in England and picked up more than Anglophone accents. In returning to their native continent, they carry Western ideologies in conjunction with their Africanness. The spotlight is very much on the women’s interaction with themselves and their countrymen.

And by countrymen I do mean specifically African men. Oh, yes; there will be sex. Not your steamy beast-with-two-backs-and-cat-scratches HBO scenes, but sex is broached quite realistically. One of my favorite episodes, “An African Dump,” deals with the politics of flatulence after sex in a way that still left me chuckling minutes after it ended.

"An African City" clearly has a winning premise, but it soars because it makes good on several promising elements of the narrative:

1. The tension between home and homeland.

What catapults the web series past rom-com territory is its unflinching interrogation of what it means to make a home of your homeland when you have previously identified as Diasporan. All the little details like housing, inflation, politics, customs (both airport customs and day-to-day living) combine to give readers a sense of the women’s journey settling in. "An African City" flirts with romantic entanglements but stubbornly refuses to romanticize Accra. It instead paints a picture of an imperfect location (struggles with electricity) that the women criticize and appreciate for its merits (food and culture) with equitable sincerity.

2. Wardrobe, wardrobe, wardrobe! And hair.

What would be the point of setting a series in Africa in you don’t showcase African fashion? The designers for the show do a marvelous job of dressing the five African women in modern, yet classic, pieces. The bold patterns, brights colors and edgy cuts are emblematic of African couture. Each woman has a distinctive style that demonstrates a commitment to three-dimensional characterization. Rather than dismiss the wardrobe as merely styling, I consider the creative attire an important part of a story that centers African women. They are stylish and they are fully comfortable with their heritage.

3. Wrestling with Western mores in a traditional African City.

I love that "An African City" challenges what it means to be authentically African from head to toe. The girls can dress the part, sure; but when it boils down to what an African woman thinks about her place in society, there is a rich conflict the show tackles head on. Armed with words like sexism and feminism, what space will they carve out for themselves as Western-educated Africans?

Amid all this, there are the comical struggles for love, self-respect, and the sanctity of one’s vibrator. "An African City" makes excellent use of comedy without reducing its own emotional honesty. If anything detracts from the show’s debut season, it is that the characters show marginal progression after 12 episodes of laughter and mishaps.

In 2014, women like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Lupita Nyong’o are practically household names around the world. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is poised to make a splash with the debut of the film Belle. All the above women are African with significant time spent in Western nations. "An African City" is a timely imagining of their reality, the reality of many in the Diaspora slowly finding and redefining their way home.



Dara T. Mathis writes about life, race and popular culture at TrulyTafakari.com and tweets too much @dtafakari

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11 Comments

  • Marjorie H. | June 9, 2014 10:03 AMReply

    Did the producers say they wanted to reach an AA audience specifically? Really curious about this because as i see it the show is about African women and i imagine that would be their core targeted viewer. If other groups enjoy it obviously it's great for them.

    With that out the way I dd watch all episodes and I think the show is a wonderful new voice for African women. It's got a lot of buzz so other people must like it as well. I think for a first go and being independently funded the production value is great. Everything could be better with more money and resources and I expect that to happen in their next episodes. Kudos to the producers for doing this. I love seeing people put their work out there. I fully understand the difficulty of having an idea to bringing it to fruition. Looking forward to new episodes and improved work and quality.

  • denis | June 8, 2014 10:18 AMReply

    j'aimerais correspondre avec une femme de 19 à 21 ans

  • 392 | June 7, 2014 10:51 PMReply

    I wanted to like the series, but I didn't care for the storlylines and found the acting left much to be desired.
    But I tip my hat to those involved with the project.

  • CJ Harris | June 7, 2014 8:24 PMReply

    Please let me help you with your trailer. It will change the perception of your show. You guys could use a professional. Email me and I will send you a link to my reel.

    CJ Harris
    Modular Movie Trailers

  • Kym | June 6, 2014 11:39 AMReply

    I love this series!

  • RANDOM COMMENTARY | June 6, 2014 11:39 AMReply

    Very appealing ladies.

  • troublemaker | June 6, 2014 11:01 AMReply

    I saw the first and only episode of An African City. I'm sorry but I wasn't impressed. I was distracted by the very amateurish acting and the very bad lighting. I thought it reminded me of those Nigerian movies. I did love the clothes and I believe that was where most of the budget went.

  • troublemaker | June 7, 2014 11:23 AM

    @ BOOMSLANG
    The web series wants an African American audience to watch the series or else this article wouldn't be posted on this site. Most African Americans will put up with bad lighting if the dialog, story and acting are convincing but they are not going to put up with bad sound or bad acting, bad dialog, bad story, bad lighting and bad sound all in one series. That's too much distractions for one to ignore.

    Most African American shows including Gabby Union's lack good story telling. They mostly consist of the same ghetto crap or Tyler Perry's buffoonery and coonery. However, you would be pressed to find bad acting, bad dialog, bad lighting, bad story and bad sound all together in episode after episode. It would either get better as episodes go by or get cancelled because no one have time to put up with crappy shows when they are better crafted shows vying for our attention.

    African American shows are targeted to an African American audience not to Africans, African Europeans, Afro Caribbean, Afro Latinos etc.
    The producers of An African City want to attract an African American audience and that's where the problems lies. This series is not watchable for a majority African American audience. If this series is targeted to Ghanians, Africans or African Americans born to African parents there is no problem.

  • boomslang | June 7, 2014 9:33 AM

    Okay I assume what you mean by American shows is essentially white-American shows with the odd black person in it . Then if this is the case then perhaps you have a point . But most African american shows are poorly lit and for the most part the dialogue is as average as this show's .Dem girls are dressed nicely but they look like they are heading to a Glamoroso fashion event .That's fine, but the dress sense should reflect the tone of the show .

    This show is on par with that Gabrielle Union show on BET and a myriad of others produced and bankrolled by African-americans. They are watchable but forgettable . I would think African american have access to the latest technology and a number of writers could produce impressive stuff. What is your excuse ?

    One last thing , this show is definitely not for Americans , but how many european shows do you guys watch ( not many ) . They are poorly lit also , shot at 30fps , the brand of acting and the types of european looks are not what American audiences consider "fine" . Forget about colour grading and sound design .

  • troublemaker | June 6, 2014 12:19 PM

    @MILLIE MONYO
    I was planning to watch it again because I always thought that the show had potential. If African filmmakers want their shows to be on par with Western shows aka American shows, the acting and production value has got to be the same as these shows. No excuses because it's an "African show". Black Americans don't need to sit and watch this show when they have Tyler Perry's buffoonery to watch. His shows production value and acting are way better than any Nollywood and Gollywood production.
    P.S. I was being sarcastic about the clothes. If that's all this show has going for it is the clothes, that alone will not keep me interested when I have to put up with bad acting and poorly lit sets. The filmmaker has got to get her act together if she wants an audience outside of Africa.

  • Millie Monyo | June 6, 2014 11:55 AM

    Dear Troublemaker… I suggest you give it another shot. (my opinion may be biased in that I worked on the series) but in all honesty there are plenty of shows that If i’d chosen to cast judgment after only one episode I would hate. I think if your assessment is still the same a few episodes in, then it is only fair to say that you truly don’t like it. Everyone doesn’t like everything... Such is life… Glad you liked the clothes though!

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