There’s a wave of change happening. And it has everything to do with Africa…and Lupita Nyong’o…and Nollywood…and even Beyoncé and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Over the past few years, if you’ve been paying any attention to what’s going on in the world, then you’ve probably noticed that Africa—the continent—has been getting quite a bit of play lately. And not for the reasons you usually hear about: war, poverty, corruption and 419 scams.
In 2014, Africa’s image is beginning to shift slowly but surely as more and more stories of success, talent, thriving business opportunities, and cultural crossovers take center stage. (If there’s any doubt, check out Michelle Williams’ new release of this African Gospel song featuring Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland.) As an East African myself, it’s exciting to think that one day, I will no longer have to answer ignorant questions like, “Do you have cars in Africa?” because enough people would have been exposed to the diversity that is African culture. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but given the growing popularity of shows like An African City, the continent’s version of “Sex in the City,” my wish may become reality.
An African City, is the story of five women: Ngozi, Zainab, Nana Yaa, Sade and Makena. Each with African roots (they hail from Ghana), and each having made the decision to return to Ghana from the U.S. in search of opportunity, a better life, and of course: love. Set in the rapidly developing (and quite expensive) capital of Accra, this web TV show has endeared a large fan base to its fashion-forward cast of characters—it’s received almost 1 million views on YouTube. One theory behind the show’s popularity, is the fact that the narrative is one that is rarely seen. It goes against the grain of the typical story of the disadvantaged, uneducated, impoverished African woman who is dependent on handouts to provide for her family.
Instead, the series shows African women in a more professional, polished and positive light. You could just as easily imagine that the main characters were in New York. As highly educated, accomplished, and worldly fashionistas, the women give you insights into the sights, sounds, smells and culture of West Africa.
What An African City does very well is allow an international audience to see that our aspirations and challenges as women are universal. Although the characters and conversations are fictional, I have to admit that I’ve had similar dialogues with some of my own African girlfriends (“Mom and Dad are at it again: When are you going to find yourself a good African man and settle down? I am waiting for my grandbabies.”), and I can definitely relate to many of the scenes depicted in the show.
According to the show’s creator, Nicole Amarteifio who is of Ghanian descent, she was yearning for media that rejected the typical stereotype of the African woman. In an interview with CNN, she stated: “I wanted something for African women, something for us and by us. I was tired of the sole narrative of the African woman being about poverty and disease. I wanted to see another narrative—one of beauty, glamour and intelligence.” Although the show’s critics question whether the show is overly focused on the “successful African woman,” I think it’s refreshing to see media that shows there’s more to Africa and Africans than war, famine and disease.
It’s about time.
Check out some of the episodes here and let us know your thoughts. What do you think about how the show depicts African women?