The lightheartedly named African Time is a lovely new web series produced by the Waave + Dada artist collective. Each short episode consists of a different individual discussing their individual experiences as Africans living in the United States. There are no frills to speak of, with subjects speaking directly to the camera, usually in front of a black backdrop. Yet, many of the characters and their anecdotes are captivating enough where it doesn’t seem to matter how bare bones the whole production is.
This is especially true for the episode entitled “Smiles and Popcorn,” in which the mother of one of the series’ creators, Mawuena Akyea, discusses her confusion with what she calls the ‘cut-and-paste smile’ of white America and the absurdity of the buckets of popcorn (and refills) available at American movie theaters: “Where I come from, when you smile at someone, it means you are establishing some kind of relationship or you are just happy, you are content, you are on friendly terms with a person. Usually we don’t smile at strangers.” More than anything else, Mrs. Akyea provides viewers with a unique and subtly biting analysis of some of the nuances of American culture.
Not all episodes hit the spot like the one with Akyea’s mom as well as that the middle aged immigrant from Sierra Leone talking about parenting. However, every episode offers insights into American culture that only outsiders and new Americans could provide. And that’s the thing about the African Time web series: even though the intention may be to provide a glimpse into the lives of Africans in the US, it ultimately reveals more about American society, with all of its problems and idiosyncrasies.