Sex And 'An African City': A Steamy Ghanaian Show You Don't Want To Miss : Code Switch Five African women who came of age abroad make their way back to Accra, Ghana, as adult professionals looking for love — and end up grappling with where they fit into this place they call "home."
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Sex And 'An African City': A Steamy Ghanaian Show You Don't Want To Miss

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Sex And 'An African City': A Steamy Ghanaian Show You Don't Want To Miss

Sex And 'An African City': A Steamy Ghanaian Show You Don't Want To Miss

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/471478897/472232864" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Imagine "Sex And The City," but instead of Manhattan it's Accra, Ghana. The friends are five fashionable African women raised abroad. They return to Ghana as adult professionals looking for love and sex - lots of sex. This remix is a show called "An African City." And Shereen Marisol Meraji of NPR's Code Switch team shares all the juicy details.

SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, BYLINE: But first a little scene-setter - an African city opens with passengers deplaning at Ghana's Kotoka International Airport at dusk. Our main character, NanaYaa - dressed in a white tank top, dark denim jeans, a perfectly tailored black jacket perched atop her shoulders - strides over to the customs agent. But before she can take her passport from her designer handbag, he tells her she is in the wrong line.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AN AFRICAN CITY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As customs agent) Madam, the line for the non-Ghanaians is on the other side.

MAAMEYAA BOAFO: (As NanaYaa) Yeah, I know. I'm Ghanaian.

MERAJI: He looks totally confused as she pushes her passport through the opening in the bulletproof glass with that I-told-you-so cock of the head and then says in broken Twi, the language of Ghana's Ashanti people, that she is indeed Ghanaian.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AN AFRICAN CITY")

BOAFO: (As NanaYaa, speaking Twi).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As customs agent, laughter, speaking Twi).

CHRISTABEL NSIAH-BUADI: I cracked up because that's exactly what happened to me. And, like, what do you do in that instance?

MERAJI: Christabel Nsiah-Buadis is a journalist and writer living in Los Angeles.

NSIAH-BUADI: I call myself a British-born Ghanaian.

MERAJI: She's seen "An African City" and says that airport scene drew her right in.

NSIAH-BUADI: You identify as Ghanaian. And someone who you know you kind of look like is saying to you, no, no, no, you don't belong in this line. You belong in that line. Going back home and seeing this home in a very romantic way, having that question kind of shatters all of that illusion. And so that's when it hooked me because it resonated.

MERAJI: The show's creator, Nicole Amarteifio, who was born in Ghana and raised in New York, wrote it for women like herself - Africans who came of age in the U.S. or Britain.

NICOLE AMARTEIFIO: They were my audience. I felt like they couldn't really relate to Nollywood, but there was a lot about Hollywood they couldn't relate to. So that gap between Nollywood and Hollywood, I was trying to fill it for that audience.

MERAJI: She's talking about West Africa's version of Hollywood in Nigeria, also known as Nollywood. Amarteifio says she also wanted to tell a story about Africa that had nothing to do with war, poverty and famine. She got her undergrad and graduate degrees in the U.S. and returned to Ghana to work for the World Bank and wanted to capture this moment where young professionals, like herself, were returning to start businesses, work for NGOs or as executives for international companies. And the way to do that came to her while she was sitting on the couch watching an episode of "Sex And The City."

AMARTEIFIO: In Accra, Ghana, watching Carrie Bradshaw, Samantha Jones, Miranda Hobbes and Charlotte York Goldenblatt, it became clear to me that that was the answer. What would the show be like set in Accra? And that would be the way to fight the single-story.

MERAJI: "An African City's" Carrie Bradshaw is NanaYaa, a journalist with her own radio show. And just like Bradshaw, NanaYaa serves as narrator, clueing us into her love drama and that of her best girlfriends - Ngozi, Makena, Sade and Zainab.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AN AFRICAN CITY")

BOAFO: (As NanaYaa) Zainab had met a perfect-on-paper guy. Bamadeli (ph) was U.S.-educated and returned to Africa to launch an entertainment website. He was 34 and single.

MERAJI: These women and the men they date are the 1 percent. They are highly educated and their families have connections. We know that NanaYaa's father is the minister of energy in Ghana. Sade's dad is the pastor of a mega-church in Nigeria. They dress fabulously and are always perfectly coiffed and accessorized.

NSIAH-BUADI: They're very privileged young women - right? And on that level, that's not realistic, to me anyway. Maybe to someone else, but that's not the life that I live.

MERAJI: Christabel Nsiah-Buadi, who we met earlier and watches the show, says it does irritate her how bourgie these woman are, how they talk down to waiters and manicurists, blame their missing bras on the help. But her friend and a fellow Ghanaian Essie Blankson-Turner, an entrepreneur living in Los Angeles, she says she can overlook that.

ESSIE BLANKSON-TURNER: I like seeing Ghanaian woman on the screen. I like the fact that our stories are being told. And I like the fact that I can relate to it in some aspect.

NSIAH-BUADI: I love the fact that they are gorgeous.

BLANKSON-TURNER: Yes.

NSIAH-BUADI: I love the fact that they wear the most amazing clothes.

BLANKSON-TURNER: All the time.

NSIAH-BUADI: I'm literally like, I want that lipstick. I want those earrings - you know? It's just - even that. I mean, how often do we get to do that?

MERAJI: And, they add, when do you ever get to see African women talk about S-E-X so openly and have it on screen in such an explicit way? No, no, no, this is not pornography. But it pushes the boundaries in a pretty conservative, predominantly Christian culture that would rather keep all that behind closed doors. Instead, Sade, the sexually liberated Samantha-like character in "An African City," she lets it all hang out. In one scene, the friends are lounging poolside, counseling Makena on the best way to ask her boyfriend to use a condom. And Sade whips out a stack to show she's always prepared.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AN AFRICAN CITY")

NANA MENSAH: (As Sade) Trojans, Durex, Fiesta, Rockdoms - pick your poison, baby.

MARIE HUMBERT: (As Makena) Girl, are those all for you?

MENSAH: (As Sade) Indeed. Take as many as you want, but leave the Rockdoms for me. I'm seeing Kwame later tonight.

My name is Nana Mensah. And I play the role of Sade on "An African City." Both my parents are Ghanaian migrants - immigrants? I don't know what the cool thing to say is these days. Anyway, my parents came to the United States from Ghana.

MERAJI: Mensah says she loves it when other first-generation women come up to her and say they really identify with the show. She's even had positive responses to her sexually adventurous character Sade from both her contemporaries and women her mom's age.

MENSAH: Yeah, somebody was like, can somebody - can Sade do a spinoff? I was like, no, that sounds like a lot of work.

MERAJI: A spinoff is not in "An African City's" future yet, but the show that started as a free Web series on YouTube is now a moneymaking venture. You can buy an online subscription for season two. And it's got licensing deals with networks in Africa. In future seasons, Nana Mensah wants her character, Sade, to stop obsessing over the married men she's been bedding and start using that degree from Harvard Business School.

MENSAH: Get your own man, Sade, come on. Like it's - you know, so I think I'm feeling a little bit ready to let that go. And so, you know, I would love to focus on Sade's work life a little more maybe.

MERAJI: "An African City's" creator Nicole Amarteifio says she doesn't know what's next for her characters, but she assured me she is most definitely not taking any of the steam out of the scenes - if you know what I mean. Shereen Marisol Meraji, NPR News.

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