Interview: 'An African City' Star MaameYaa Boafo
Okayafrica caught up with 'An African City' star MaameYaa Boafo on the heels of the show's first season finale.
Photo Credit: Studio Eveliz by Eveliz and Tony Prince Tomety
An African City is the brainchild of writer and producer Nicole Amarteifo Millie Monyo. The webseries follows the lives of five women recently returned to the motherland, more specifically, their motherland– Accra. We find the women all in their thirties, single or divorced, and looking for love in a country ruled by men, but on the throngs of change. With the series, Nicole has painted African women as we rarely see them in the media— young, beautiful, successful, sexual, funny and flawed all at the same time. Nana Yaa (played by MaameYaa Boafo), a journalist and the comparative ‘Carrie’ of the group, struggles with the choice of financing her own apartment with the sky-rocketing rent inflation in Accra as well as an ex-lover who is set to be married to another woman. Makena, a lawyer and Oxford alum, is the unemployed one of the group, while Zainab is a successful business owner (she sells the illustrious Shea Butter that we all love). Ngozi, with a degree in international affairs and a hand on the bible is the adorably religious friend, the exact foil to Sade, the ‘Samantha’ of the group— a Harvard graduate, marketing manager and self-assured sugar baby and "sexpert." Nicole refers to her characters as "Afropolitaines," and the show itself is a finely knit curated effort that integrates gorgeous African-inspired garments, natural hair, Ghanaian reggae and hip hop, sex and social awareness all into ten fifteen-minute episodes. We caught up with An African City star MaameYaa Boafo on the heels of the first season finale.
Akilah for Okayafrica: Tell us about the show’s inception? How did the idea come about? Did you have to audition? When did you come on board?
MaameYaa: Yes, I had to audition. I saw the post on a Facebook acting page and submitted for it. I was actually leaving town the day of the audition so I couldn't stay long at the audition, but Nicole (the series creator) let me send a taped audition. I think she called me about a week later and I've been a part of the AAC family ever since.
OKA: You, being a Ghanaian woman living in the United States, do you find that a popular sentiment is many young Ghanaians in the states are moving back to Ghana?
MaameYaa: I do see that my friends here in New York are moving back home. And they sound so happy that they made that choice- makes me jealous lol. But they are leaving when the time is right for them based on their career and where they are personally and professionally. The timing has to be right, more so than it is popular, that's how I am approaching it for myself.
OKA: The show is innovative, insofar as its depiction of young African women in Africa as independent, successful and sexual beings in all of their roundedness. Can you speak more on this?
MaameYaa: An African City showcases Ghanaians from the point of view of "Reaspora." Look at Nicole and how she created the series. She wrote this based on stories that women can relate to whether they are returnees are not. In fact some of the episodes start out saying that these were real events, just different locations and different names. She's shedding light about African Women in the 21st century and what we go through with jobs, image, men, tradition etc. I can personally say that my friends back in Ghana are represented by the "Fabulous Five" (characters on the show). My friends are women who have started their own businesses--fashion lines, consulting companies etc. Some of my friends have decided to make the move back home (to Ghana) solely on faith with no job prospects.
OKA: Ghana seems to be booming as far as tourism. Why do you think that is? What has changed in recent years?
MaameYaa: I’ve never lived in Ghana but I've noticed that more universities have study abroad programs there. Foreign designers are very much into African print– West African print to be exact. I read somewhere not long ago that Ghana is #5 in countries one should visit-- that might have something to do with it! Public figures of Ghanaian descent are being featured everywhere- Amma Asante, Taiye Selasi, Ozwald Boateng etc. which also spark interest. Most people I've met and who have visited Ghana always have wonderful things to say. I just closed a play here on the east coast and my castmate studied abroad and lived on campus at University of Legon about 10 years ago, but he tells me about his time there as if it were yesterday with such joy. He's a fan of AAC and tells me how much just watching the show makes him want to go back.
OKA: The show features many unique, African inspired designs. Are there any particular designers that stand out to you? Who are some of the designers worn on the show? Are they Ghanaian?
MaameYaa: I loved all the designers! They were so generous with their clothes and I've kept in touch with some of them after season 1 wrapped. Chemphe Bea, Christie Brown, Ameyo were a few of the designers featured, but not all of them are Ghanaians. The blue dress Nana Yaa wore in episode 2 is from a popular peacock dress from my friend, a Haitian American designer named Marie Jean Baptiste of Rue 107 and the matching ankara crop top and skirt from episode 8 is by Maya Gorgoni of Royal Jelly Harlem.
OKA: Can you tell us more about the music on the show? How is it chosen? Is it mainly Ghanaian music? Who are some of your favorite Ghanaian artists at the moment?
MaameYaa: What I love about our show is that we showcase what we as African artists have to offer. The song at the end of episode 1 is called "Wooye" by Maurice Kirya of Uganda. A lot of the music highlights Ghanaian artists as well. I love Jayso's music who is also on the production team (his song "Pizza & Burger" is currently on repeat on my ipod) and I'm also digging Blitz the Ambassador and other Ghanaian artists such as ABIAH and Efya. I look forward to hearing their music on future episodes.
Continue to page 2 for the rest of the Q&A