Sex and the city meets Accra

Ngozi, Zainab, Nana Yaa, Sade and Makena are five Ghanaian friends who, after living in the USA and UK for several years, return to Accra. This is the plot story of An African City, the online web series which premiered on YouTube in March and already has thousands of fans. Think Sex and the City set in Ghana.

Ghanaian-born Nicole Amarteifio, creator and writer, and Millie Monyo, executive producer, were inspired by their own life stories to create this series: a statement on freedom, sex and dual identity lived by women in this West African capital. Recently, we have seen soap operas focusing on sex and HIV in major African cities: MTV’s Shuga: Love, Sex, Money, set in Nairobi, and  Shuga Naija, recorded in the megacity of Lagos. But An African City focuses on urban contemporary African women living day-by-day in Accra.

An African City has a new narrative that weaves close to Afropositivism but is also self-critical. It stands against stereotypes of poverty, war and hunger associated with the continent. The series also breaks from almost ubiquitous patriarchy, showing the feminine side of an African city. It is also a platform to promote Ghanaian designers like Christie Brown, Chemphe Bea and Kiki Clothing, as reported by Amarteifio in a recent CNN interview.

The main characters are in their thirties, emancipated, single, modern, intelligent, dynamic, cosmopolitan, Afropolitan, polyglot, bourgeois, classy, westernized and looking for their new Ghanian selves. They return to an Accra that has little to do with the Accra they left before. The housing boom makes it very difficult to find affordable rental homes. Their new culinary tastes (Ngozi is vegetarian) contradict the traditional Ghanaian diet, despite the chic restaurants and clubs dotting Accra. The difficulty of finding a job in this rapidly expanding African city puzzles them. Their conception of public space is no longer consistent with that of Accra’s residents. They have to adapt to repeated blackouts in the city. And, central to the show, there is a gap between what they expect when dating Ghanaian guys to what they really find.

This is a soap about sex and love, but it is also a very accurate portrayal of middle to upper class life in Accra. The originality of this series, although it can be likened to Sex and the City, lies in its portrayal of a positive image of an African city. These are educated, wealthy women changing male-female relationship dynamics and building mixed identities. A set of stylish fashionistas; trendsetters of Africa’s 21st Century. Or, at least, leaders of a certain type of African branding.

Major criticisms of the series focus on how these these posh, frivolous characters, with smart cars and rich fathers, are not representative of the majority of Ghanaian urbanites. Certainly, the lives of these five elegant women is not the life of most Ghanaians nor of most Africans. But it is a reality, especially in major African cities, where thousands of women with needle heels consume, create and recreate their middle to upper class realities. It is a contemporary narrative about women that is seldom told by the mass media, which is dominated by stories of female circumcision, male chauvinism, and the like. The series does well to break stereotypes and offers a window into gender issues, the diversity of African identities and the plurality of realities lived on the continent.

Don’t miss it in on YouTube.

Gemma Solés i Coll holds an M.A. in Social Science of Development South of the Sahara (URV) and graduated in Philosophy (UB). She specializes in artistic and cultural trends and urban dynamics in Africa. She serves as chief editor for the music and performing arts section of Spanish online magazine WIRIKO, of which she is the founder.

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