African Cities Reader

African_Cities_Reader_2In many senses African cities are amongst the most generative and vibrant places on the planet. Yet, we know next to nothing about what goes on in the places. Not that there is any shortage of caricature, hyperbole or opinion about what makes African cities such quintessential spaces of dystopia and atrophy. We believe that a range of interventions that seek to engage the shape-shifting essence of African cities are long overdue and present this modest initiative as one contribution to a larger movement of imagination to redefine the practical workings of the African city.

For us it is self-evident that one has to take the youthful demographic, informality and a non-conventional insertion in global circuits by African urbanites as a starting point for a sustained engagement and retelling of the city in contemporary Africa. The cultural, livelihood, religious, stylistic, commercial, familial, knowledge producing and navigational capacities of African urbanites are typically overlooked, unappreciated and undervalued. We want to bring their stories and practices to the fore in the African Cities Reader. In other words, the African Cities Reader seeks to become a forum where Africans will tell their own stories, draw their own maps and represent their own spatial topographies as it continuous to evolve and adapt at the interstice of difference, complexity, opportunism, and irony.

In terms of focus, tone and sensibility, the Reader will be vibrant, unapologetic, free, accessible and open, provocative, fresh, not take itself too seriously, but also be rigorous and premised on the assumption that it will grow and evolve over time.

The launch issue (2008/9) is organised around the theme: “Pan-African Practices”. The back story to this theme is the recognition that all African cities are the product of multiple trajectories and origins, which implies that that the living, breathing, pulsating fact of African cities adds up to a form of ‘pan-Africanism’ that is more interesting than the tired tropes of pan-African Nationalism that remains the stock and trade of many official discourses about transnational and trans-local practices on the continent. We believe that ‘pan-Africanism as a practice’ despite the repeated deaths of pan-Africanism as a nationalist discourse opens up multiple explorations into the spatial specificity of cities crafted in the border zones between informal/formal, licit/illicit, chaotic/ordered, etc. Furthermore, in terms of over-arching knowledge projects, we perceive a productive space between: on the one hand, the imperative to respond to and engage with the dismissal of blackness/blackhood by a stream of postcolonial philosophy – a move we suspect may be too soon and too definitive – and, on the other, the insistence of dominant discourses and institutions that some essentialist African exceptionalism and solidarity is possible. However, the idea is not to dwell here but simply to use the idea of materially and symbolically grounded practices to explore the public and popular cultural dimensions of pan-African cityness. Throughout, the critical focus will invariably fall on practices, phenomenologies and spatialities and their intersections.

Naturally, flowing from this exploratory vantage point, the African Cities Reader will be open to multiple genres (literature, philosophy, faction, reportage, ethnographic narrative, etc), forms of representation (text, image, sound and possibly performance), and points of view. The African Cities Reader will seek to embody and reflect the rich pluralism, cosmopolitanism and diversity of emergent urbanisms across Africa. Thus, the Reader invites and undertake to commission writing and art by practitioners, academics, activists and artists from diverse fields across Africa in all of her expansiveness.

See: http://www.africancitiesreader.org.za/

Housing Problems (1935)

https://vimeo.com/67797911

Dirección: Arthur Elton y Edgar Anstey
Duración: 17 mins.
Producción: Arthur Elton, E.H. Anstey
Compañía Productora: British Commercial Gas Association
Fotografía: John Taylor
El film explora el movimiento de familias desde tugurios urbanos a viviendas sociales consolidadas, y constituye una de las cintas claves del género documental de todos los tiempos, ya que fue la primera en mostrar a personas hablando directamente a la cámara acerca de sus problemas cotidianos. A través de dichos relatos, los directores construyen un argumento de denuncia y a la vez de esperanza, muy acorde al espíritu británico moderno del entre-guerras.

“Housing problems” | London, 1935 | Production Arthur Elton, E.H. Anstey, for the B.C.G.A.
Photography John Taylor, Recording York Scarlett |15 minutes, b/n, sound

“Made by Arthur Elton and Edgard Anstey in 1935 for the British Commercial Gas Association. Housing Problems was produced to draw attention to the state housing programmes. According to Erik Barnouw, the author of Documentary. A history of non-fiction film (1993), it was Grierson, one of the more renowned English documentary makers, who convinced the gas company of the importance of making the film: ‘…the demolition of derelict slums and their replacement by governement-finacing housing – a key demand of the socialist Labour party – would inevitably bring modernization and increased use of gas. Thus the company financed a film of blunt and moving protest”
by L. Ciacci, ‘Movies’ Column, Planum. The Journal of Urbanism planum.net

Oude beelden armoede Amsterdam ~ Old Images Poverty In Amsterdam (1930)

Contested Terrain: A Lecture With Eyal Weizman

Can architecture be a form of political intervention? This question is central to the work of Eyal Weizman, a writer, architect, and director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London. For this talk, Weizman discusses his approach to architecture as a research-led collaborative practice. Often working with an interdisciplinary team—artists, urbanists, forensic scientists, archaeologists, human rights advocates—he analyzes vacated buildings, maps, satellite imagery, and other spatial artifacts to unravel the contested politics in sites of conflict and violence, including Palestine, the Former Yugoslavia, and Guatemala, among others.

This lecture is presented in conjunction with Sacred Space/Contested Terrain, an interdisciplinary exhibition organized by the University of Minnesota’s Katherine E. Nash Gallery, School of Architecture, Department of Art, and Program in Religious Studies in collaboration with the Walker.

Weizman directs the European Research Council–funded project Forensic Architecture. He is one of the cofounders of the architectural collective DAAR—Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency—in Beit Sahour, Palestine. His books include The Least of all Possible Evils (2012), Mengele’s Skull (with Tom Keenan, 2012) Hollow Land (2007), and A Civilian Occupation (2003). Weizman is a regular contributor and an editorial board member for several journals and magazines, including Humanity, Cabinet, and Inflexions, and has lectured extensively around the world.

Sabrina Iovino ~ Smokey Mountain: A Walk Through The Slums Of Manila, Philippines

Photo: Sabrina Iovino

Photo: Sabrina Iovino

I left the upscale neighborhood Makati by taxi and headed towards the north of Manila, towards Tondo. I was on my way to visit Smokey Mountain, one of Manila’s slums and the largest dumpsite where over 25,000 people pick up garbage for a living. The sad truth is, Smokey Mountain is one of the most impoverished areas in the world.

See: http://www.justonewayticket.com/smokey-mountain

Brent Toderian ~The 100 “Best” Books On City-Making Ever Written?

pile-of-bookFebruary 2015. I usually don’t associate happiness with things, “stuff,” material goods, but I have to admit that there are few things that make me happier than my books. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved libraries and book stores, and when I saw that a childhood friend’s home had a room full of floor-to-ceiling book shelves, I knew that one day I would have to have a room like that. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever embrace the growing trend of downloading books on tablets – for me, there’s simply nothing quite like sitting in my “library” (the enclosed balcony in our downtown apartment), surrounded by my favourite books on city-making.

I like to claim that I have the most extensive library of books on urbanism of any city-making practitioner – at least for any non-professor! If anyone would care to challenge my possible self-delusion, bring it on!

Read more: http://www.planetizen.com/


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