I laid on the futon watching An African City; I noticed my mind kept wandering off. No, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t bored. It’s an interesting series, inspiring if I may add. From watching this show, I have gained confidence about my natural hair. I recently told my mother in a fit of frustration that when I get to law school in a couple of months, I would keep a perm cut for the entire three years. But after seeing Nana Yaa and Zainab (two of the main characters from the series) through every episode keep their natural hair flawlessly, (not even in braids, just out! Moisturized!) I rethought my decision.
Besides, if for anything at all, I kept watching the series for the great fashion ideas I glean. An African City has exposed me to the depth of creativity with Ghanaian fashion designers. I even bought a dress made by one of these designers and honestly I felt the same sense of pride as I would wearing clothing from any highly acclaimed American or British designer.
Photo credit: Christie Brown online store. ( The dress I got)
So why did my mind keep wandering off?
I’ll tell you what I think.
My mind was using some sort of distraction tactic to relieve me of the discomfort I felt from consuming many sex scenes and/or conversations about sex within the series. They made me a little uncomfortable, not because I am a novice with conversations of such sort. Heck, I am a millennial and a proud Shonda Rhimes super fan. It was because Ghanaian women are not like Sade (pronounced Sha- dae), (another main character), who will battle with customs officers to have access to her dildos.
I didn’t grow up knowing women like that, or even reading African book characters like that. My idea of bold, courageous, Ghanaian women were those who could cook meaty dishes, were religious, worked hard, remained chaste, married at a “ripe” age, had children at least with one boy and groomed those babies to become good, well meaning citizens. I might have been myopic but I pretty sure I was not alone in my experience.
Luckily for me, now in my early 20’s, books like African love stories: an anthology, have given me a broader perspective of female characters, but I still could not fathom seeing a character like Ngozi on screen, -(another main character, there are 5 of them). A vegetarian (An African vegetarian!!) who couldn’t cook to save her life, values her faith, but has ravenous sexual desires – which eventually she surrenders to in an attempt to resolve her internal conflict between love and lust.
It comes as no surprise that after I was done watching the entire series, I was hypercritical about the characters. I went as far to think to myself that Nicole Amartefio, (the creator of the show), had used the internet as a means to perpetuate pornography.
Charles Ess, author of Digital Media and Ethics, suggests “The plethora of online pornographies guarantees that virtually any stance on porn can be backed up with multiple examples supporting one’s argument.” And from what I saw, it appears to me that by Ghanaian moral standards, this series could pass for PORN!
I talked to all my friends about it, arguing for my pornography stance. A couple of weeks after trying to convince everyone who would hear me that this show was substandard for our nation, I came across an interview with Nicole on BET Centric. During the interview, Lola Ogunnaike, one of the hosts of the show said that a great quality of the show is that people get to see a different side of African women that is usually not portrayed in the media. It’s not the typical story of poverty or FGM (Female Genital Mutilation). “They are glamorous women who could be living in any city; Paris, Luxembourg, etc.” Nicole nodded in assertion to this point, and then said, “that was the point”, with a hearty smile. She continued, explaining that she wanted to tell the story of women she knew growing up… she wanted to portray another story of the African woman.
At that point I had a light bulb moment! Amartefio was fighting the single story dilemma. You know, the one Chimamanda talked about in her TED talk.
Looking back now, I think the reason I, and many others, have given the show such criticism is because there is so much pressure on this show to be perfect. An African city is the one, single show from Ghana to make a significant impact on the world stage. More so because of this status I think I was intrinsically reacting in fear to the potential of this show becoming another “single story representation of my home country and continent”.
That being said, I realized even more so the need to have diverse stories of our continent, so we don’t overly criticize the few who have taken a leap of faith, like Amartefio. It’s also important that we do so especially in this fragile time where we are still navigating of our identity as Ghanaians and as Africans.