Girl Going Places: Maame Adjei

Girl Going Places: Maame Adjei

Changing narratives is part of Maame’s mission. The actress and producer is best known for playing Zeinab, the slightly jaded, forward-thinking businesswoman on the web series heralded as the Sex and the City of the African continent. Here she shares with us her next project.

2013, One Direction visited Ghana with Comic Relief. “Just
arrived back from Accra, best life experience ever,” tweeted Niall
Horan. “I’ve seen the slums right in front of me! This is no joke!
Poverty is real!” Photos circled the internet of the group singing
with students at a school in Jamestown, one of the poorest but a
culturally rich area of Accra, and a backlash ensued. Musician
Wanlov fired back: “Ghana is getting worse, so heaven sent down 5
downcut Jesuses to teach us clapping.”

“Twitter was lighting UP,” says actress Maame Adjei, while
speeding out of Accra in a car heading for the coast. “People were
so upset. Everyone was freaking out, saying, ‘Why didn’t they take
them to the Kempinski [the most luxurious hotel in the capital]?’
or, ‘Why didn’t they take them to the wealthy neighbourhoods?'”

She was pissed off too, but not in the way that you might think.
“As Africans, we have this thing where an outsider or foreigner
comes and travels to our country, gives us a view of it and we
never like it,” Maame says, drawing out the word “never” for
emphasis. “But if you want to put a different image of your country
out there, then go and travel and put it out there yourself.”

Changing narratives is part of Maame’s mission. The actress and
producer is best known for playing Zeinab, the slightly jaded,
forward-thinking businesswoman on the web series heralded as the
Sex and the City of the African continent. Set in Accra, An African
City tells the story of five independent women (“returnees” or
“repats” as they call them) navigating the difficult process of
moving back home to Ghana after stints living and working abroad.
Reaching a million views only a few weeks after airing for the
first time, the show struck a chord with women of the African

The show, now in its second season, is produced by 34-year-old
Nicole Amarteifio (also a returnee), who told Lena Dunham’s Lenny
Letter that her aim was to represent “women who are successful and
independent and at the far extreme of the ‘single story’ of Africa,
which tends to be about war, poverty and famine”.

Inspired by real events, the series addresses everything from
getting your vibrator through customs to dealing with the property
market in Ghana (rental accommodation can cost up to £4,000 per
month, and you have to pay one whole year in cash upfront) and
avoiding turning to “uncles” in order to solve that problem. (The
term “uncle” refers to an older man with a wife who buys a younger
women everything from handbags to houses.) However, it also tackles
harder-hitting issues including domestic violence. In season one,
when the character Makena wonders if she was in fact raped if the
experience was gentle, Maame’s Zainab fires back with: “The point
is that she said ‘no’. I don’t care if she screamed it, whispered
it or said it in fucking sign language.” In doing so, the show is
opening up a safe space for dialogue surrounding significant
issues, and blazing a trail for a multi-faceted portrayal of the
modern African woman.

Maame’s next project is Girl Going Places, a YouTube travel
series produced by and starring the actress herself, which exists
to “change the narrative on the dark continent”. While An African
City shows the cosmopolitan side of Accra, highlighting some of the
city’s coolest restaurants, bars and boutiques, Girl Going Places
takes that a few steps further and provides a platform for some of
the most interesting destinations in Ghana as a whole. It’s the
reason that Maame has invited me to spend two days travelling from
Accra to the slave castles of Cape Coast, the surf town of Busua
and eventually on to a boutique hideaway called Lou Moon.

Maame had to re-familiarise herself with Ghana when she moved
back in 2013, after being educated in London and Philadelphia. The
biggest shock was being treated like an “other” in her own country,
and she found that travelling helped her become reacquainted with
home. She says: “I think once you understand who you are and where
you’re from and how dynamic it is – the good and the bad – then
there’s a self confidence that comes from that.”

It’s a process that Maame believes all Ghanaians should
undertake. She explains that Ghanaians rarely explore their own
country, beyond travelling for funerals and weddings. “You never
get up and say, ‘Hey I’m going to explore’, it’s just not done.
It’s a cultural thing… our parents didn’t, our grandparents
didn’t.” Girl Going Places will focus on internal tourism,
encouraging Africans to travel within their own countries and
continent, so that the next time the likes of One Direction give
one side of the story, they can respond with many others.

Maame shares with SUITCASE a few of her favourite destinations
in Ghana

Cape Coast and Elmina

Cape Coast was once the European colonial capital and the
largest slave-trading centre in West Africa. Cape Coast Castle and
Elmina Castle are two of the most important historical landmarks in
Ghana, both sites where slaves were kept before being shipped to
the Americas. “Before I went I never thought I would be as
emotionally impacted as I was – not because I didn’t care, but
because I am Ghanaian; I know where I’m from and I can connect my
ancestors back to somewhere here. But it’s an extremely sobering
experience, to imagine that that kind of evil happened in your own
backyard. And then to have a physical remnant of that. There’s a
smell in the dungeons that to me can only be that of human

Cape Three Points

Cape Three Points is Ghana’s southernmost peninsula, named for
its three points that jut out into the Atlantic Ocean. The area is
home to a small fishing village, deserted white sandy beaches and a
group of small eco-lodges. “I’ve been there at least seven times as
it’s the perfect escape from Accra. I went with a friend recently
and she absolutely hated it, as there is only one eco-lodge (Escape
Three Points), which is very n-a-t-u-r-a-l. I love it though – the
beach is stunning and totally untouched. You wake up in the morning
with turtles crossing the sand. The roads are terrible so I would
jump on the bus from Accra to Takoradi and then take a taxi from

Mole National Park

Around two-and-a-half hours from Tamale, the capital of Ghana’s
Northern Region, Mole National Park is the country’s largest
wildlife refuge, with over 300 species including elephants, kob
antelopes, baboons and buffalos. “You have to stay at the beautiful
Zaina Lodge, which is West Africa’s first luxury safari camp.
Located inside the game reserve, here you get to see the animals up
close and personal. The architecture is inspired by the famous
Larabanga Mosque and the infinity pool, restaurant and bar overlook
watering holes that are home to elephants, antelope, and
crocodiles. It’s one of the top places I have been.”

Likpe Todome

This small village in the Volta Region is home to a number of
caves that once served as a refuge for the Ewe people. Every cave
has a different purpose, and all serve as a fascinating look into
tribal life dating back hundreds of years. “Throughout my travels
this group of ancestral caves has been one of the most amazing
places I’ve visited. You have to hike a good few hours to get there
(bring hiking shoes and bug spray), and there’s a steep mountain
with random ropes to support as you go down a six-foot ladder into
the caves. The history is amazing and the views from the top of the
hill out over the lush green jungle are stunning.”


In 2006, two Americans set up Ghana’s first surf shop on Busua
beach, and this sleepy fishing town remains the go-to spot for
travellers who want to catch a wave. You’ll find brightly painted
shacks blaring dancehall and reggae and a few eco-hotels. “Busua is
the quintessential small town. What I love about it is that it just
so happens to be located on one of the most beautiful stretches of
beach in the country. Its size also creates a home-from-home
experience. In the space of only one weekend you can get to know
the fishermen and surf instructors by name. Come for the Asa Baako
One Dance music festival to see the town come alive.”

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