Maame Adjei at Africa Utopia
Africa Utopia is one of Europe’s biggest festivals dedicated to celebrating contributions from the continent to the global world. From subjects like sex and sexuality, to matters of development and sustainability, and showcasing Africa’s creative genius, this festival is as diverse as the African continent itself.
Now in its fourth year, 2016 promises to be just as ‘lit’ as previous years. Meet Maame Adjei, one of the stars of the most globally successful television series from Africa An African City as she tells us why she is excited about this year’s festival.
This is the first time you will be participating at Africa Utopia. What are you looking forward to?
Any festival that brings together great minds from the continent to discuss an array of topics about the continent excites me; Africa Utopia especially because I feel like it covers a lot of creative ideas and stories. I’m excited that there will be panels on fashion, travel and filmmaking. I’m even more excited to see a myriad of stories being told from the continent and I’m really happy to be participating.
Which events are you taking part in during the festival?
I’m going to be involved with a panel on fashion. Fashion is such an integral part of An African City and it should be interesting to see what other stories are out there. I will also be participating on a panel about other stories happening on the continent – not just culturally but politically, socially, economically – with a great group of dynamic people. I can’t wait to sink my teeth in.
As someone who was born in Ghana and has lived in London and the US, how do you feel about Africa Utopia taking place in Europe?
For me, it’s a full-circle moment – I’m coming back to London at a festival that specifically talks about Africa and at this moment, I’m living in Africa and I’m able to have that first-hand experience. As much as I am being invited to speak and share my views, I really want to experience it from an audience member perspective, because I feel like there are so many things happening on the continent that I’m probably not aware of or tapped into.
I am eager to see what other people are up to. Usually when you live in West Africa, everything is West African-centred. So it would be wonderful to discover what’s happening in Southern Africa and East Africa and learn about the stories and innovations taking place. I am keen to see other people of the diaspora come back and connect the dots.
Let’s talk about An African City – it arrived with much fanfare and evoked a conversation across social media during the first season. Why do you think it made such an impact?
I think any story about love is relatable: love is one of the most relatable topics on the planet. But then to have a story that speaks to the experience of love on the continent, from Afropolitan women; I think that was the unique factor that set An African City apart. A lot of people hadn’t seen stories of returnees or people who are transnational, and to show that specific group and story, which is very niche, allowed people to really connect with the nuances of what it means to be African, be raised somewhere else, and then come back to your continent and country. That is what I think people tapped into.
What do you find promising about the cultural space on the continent right now?
People are beginning to connect to the continent in a more creative and positive way, and that is allowing those of us from the continent to really dig deep and find what we want to do to boost ourselves within our own countries. This is something I realised after I moved back. I think people are starting to recognise that there is so much untapped creativity, beauty and space. It’s slow but it’s going to happen – we will embrace what we have and maximise it to its full potential right here.
Tell me about your travel show. Why was it necessary for you, as a Ghanaian woman, to show another side of Ghana to the world?
Why should I wait for somebody who is not from Ghana to come and tell me about my own country? I’m Ghanaian, I’m Ashanti and I have never been outside of Accra. It’s absolutely ridiculous to me. When I started travelling outside Accra and within Ghana, and discovering all these amazing, beautiful spaces that my friends and some of my family members didn’t know about, I thought that we were doing ourselves such a disservice.
If we don’t travel within our own space, it will always be a situation where somebody else is going to come in and tell you what you have, and that means you are waiting for validation. We have to be able to explore our own spaces first. It is critical for our own confidence. When you know what you have, you are not going to wait for somebody to tell you what you are not. We have everything that we need right here.