Monday, 14 September 2015

An African City

A BBC World Service programme worth listening to early on Saturday and Sundays is "Weekend".  It's is a marathon 150 minute discussion of current affairs and global cultures, hosted by the excellent presenter, Julian Worricker.  It happens between 0500 and 0730 GMT (0600 and 0830 British Summer Time). 

Two interesting guests appear every week to comment on the show's content, without anything more than an a layman's interest in each topic.  They are usually well selected natural combatants.  A few weeks ago, the iconoclastic Peter Oborne made a guest appearance and it was early morning fireworks.  More recently Giles Fraser made his debut, the pious Guardian columnist and South London clergyman.  Unfortunately his performance is no longer available online.

The Reverend had to comment on a new African hit drama, which tracks the lives of some very posh and beautiful young Ghanaian women (who turn out to be sometimes loveable, othertimes ghastly).  They have returned to their homeland from America and Britain, encountering a range of Third World problems jeopardising their new First World life-styles.  Episode 4 can be watched by clicking here where one of the ladies attempts to recover her shipment of luggage, most keenly her personal sexual aid, entombed in Ghana's inefficient customs system.  The ten episodes comprising the first series are only twelve minutes long and only available on YouTube.  A second series is coming, aided by crowd-funding and now bought by a range of African broadcasters, aware of the proven popularity of the show.  Getting funding for home-grown television in Africa is clearly harder than in Britain.

For a mass of Africans, particularly its women, An African City is popular because of its aspirational flight of fantasy, rather like Sex in The City.  But people like Giles Fraser would prefer it if African television was concentrating on the continent's existing miseries: poverty, violence, disease and general squalor.  In short, he wants Africa itself to adopt his missions through its popular culture, never losing sight of its burdens that must be vanquished.

Upon his sincere expression of shock that a mention of Accra's slums never featured in any of the twelve programmes, he was duly reminded by the marvellously robust producer of the series, Nicole Amarteifio, that she retained the right to produce successful entertainment, the value of which, lay precisely in its unreality. 

Her pain and anger at Giles Fraser's criticism was authentic and clear to hear.  And it takes an objection from an African for it to resonate.  Africans want to get on with their own lives, on their own terms, without their changing culture being forever trammelled to the confines of a patronising Western image.  This is the West's love of pigeon-holing the great continent as a 'basket case', an outlet for its own guilty conscience that prefers to govern than watch, listen and enjoy.