Six of the Best: Nicole Amarteifio

Six of the Best: Nicole Amarteifio

June 25, 2024


The creator of An African City explains how half-a-dozen television series inspired her career as a screenwriter and why representation on screen is so important.

The Cosby Show
Growing up, I often had two afro puffs in my hair. Seeing someone like Rudy Huxtable, who also often had two afro puffs in her hair, was important – a reminder about the need for representation. Seeing Rudy on screen made me feel beautiful, smart and loved like her. There was a confidence she emitted that helped boost my own confidence every week. Watching all the women on that show gave me the gift of feeling seen. It’s a gift every girl needs. And now that I have a family of my own, I can’t wait to take my daughter to a fancy restaurant, where she’ll demand the burger flattened and the skin removed from the French fries. I hope so many of the memories of that show will become our own.

Saved by the Bell
When I was young, Friday nights offered Thank God it’s Friday, a programming block of shows including Full House, Family Matters and Sister Sister. Each had characters finding their way and coming into their own – a reminder to me at that time that I was also finding my way and that, one day, I too will figure it all out. Then on Saturday mornings I would wake up to Saved by the Bell. For me, one character stood out: Lisa Turtle. She was the only black girl in the group and she was everything: smart, witty and beautiful. She was adored by the class geek but, nonetheless, still adored. So, I too felt adored. This show again reminds me of the importance of representation, especially among pre-teens.

Adams Apples
I’ll never forget the many times Adams Apples was mentioned to me in various circles among immigrants from countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Ethiopia. Everyone was trying to get their hands on the DVD set. They would beg those coming from Ghana to pack the DVDs in their luggage when travelling to America. They would visit Ghanaian stores in the US and plead with the clerks to find and stock the latest season. In these circles, the creator, Shirley Frimpong-Manso, was more popular than Shonda Rhimes.
US series often depict Africa in a negative light, but the Ghanaian family in this show was strong, interesting and layered. Immigrants from the African diaspora celebrated these depictions because it allowed for them to celebrate themselves.

Skinny Girl in Transit
This is a Nigerian web series by NdaniTV. It follows a young, plus-sized woman living in Lagos as she strives to find a balance between work, family and love. This show is especially interesting because of the story behind the story. For TV producers in Africa, it is hard to secure funding and distribution. However, GT Bank sponsored this series. Plus, using their own website, NdaniTV offered a way to distribute the series. Skinny Girl is an example of a team not waiting for Hollywood to give them the green light, and of a creator, Temi Balogun, controlling their own TV destiny.

The Other Guy
This Australian series (also pictured top) follows a successful radio host who breaks up with his long-term girlfriend after discovering she has been having an affair with his best friend. What really drew me to this show was the creator, Matt Okine, who is half Ghanaian and grew up in Brisbane. Because of my Ghanaian background, I’m intrigued by Ghanaians in the diaspora who are telling beautifully layered stories about figuring out life. I appreciate depictions of Africa that stray away from war, poverty and famine; stories that highlight us in different ways, without even aiming to do so. The Other Guy does just that.

An African City
Am I allowed to talk about my own show? Growing up in the US, the Hollywood depiction of Africa scarred me. I ended up in international development, where Ghanaian women were reduced to either an AIDS statistic or a maternal mortality rate. We are more than these data points. But, more importantly, we should be able to tell and own our own stories. These feelings drove me to create An African City, which CNN and the BBC dubbed as Africa’s answer to Sex & the City. In the show, five Ghanaian-American women return to Accra, Ghana, after years of living abroad, and confide in one another about their very complicated sex lives. It’s the first time I’ve seen women from Africa talk so openly and candidly about love, sex and relationships on TV. And for that reason, I love it!

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