Event: 1st African Urbanism Colloquium – First in a 3-part international multi-disciplinary exchange
Hosted by: African Centre for Cities (ACC), Cape Town
Dates: 1-3 April 2009
Location: Cape Town | South Africa
The African Urbanism Colloquium is a project of the African Centre for Cities (University of Cape Town). It gathers photographers and architects, planners and soundscape artists, choreographers and writers, geographers and sociologists in an ongoing conversation meant to inspire innovative dialogue between artists and academics on how to think and theorize the specificity of African cities.
A three-year project initiated in 2009, the Colloquium seeks to address the continued absence of theoretical work on the nature and dynamics of urbanism in African cities characterised by large swathes of informality. Many scholars have been arguing for the better part of a decade already that dominant knowledges and discourses on African cities are largely inappropriate or altogether inaccurate. These discourses mirror simplistic modernist assumptions about what constitutes a viable, legible, efficient and competitive city: vantage point from which African cities can only be seen and read as a narratives of absence, failure and inadequacy. On the back of such conceptualisations, an entire industry of analysis and policy fixes has been spawned which perpetuates the myth that African cities can only be understood in relation the modernist ideal of the Northern city, essentially reproducing the arrogance of the colonialist project. Critics of these dominant discourses point to multiple alternatives in approaching and understanding African cities. At the heart of their work is a focus on everyday practice as a platform used by city-dwellers to develop innovative strategies, both to survive under extremely difficult material conditions and to continuously fashion new ways of being and becoming. It is in the micro detail of such quotidian practices that one can begin to decipher the alternative logics and dynamics of African urbanisms.
Around these and related approaches to urban spaces and lives, the African Urbanism Colloquium brings together a group of African urban theorists and artists who work on the everyday as a way of building a new body of theory that can better capture the specificity of urbanism on the Continent. The first meeting of the Colloquium took place in Cape Town from 1 to 3 April 2009, the second in Cairo from 29 to 31 May 2010.