Reimagining Future African Cities — beyond prescribed futures

14 October 2023


On 14 October 2023, we joined forces with Rotterdam-based cultural centre Het Nieuwe Instituut and presented the panel discussion “Reimagining Future African Cities Beyond Prescribed Futures”, featuring Cycle 2 of Building Beyond.

Reimagining Future African Cities – Building Beyond Prescribed Futures
Image by Floor Besuijen

Africa has the world’s youngest population, with more than 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africans under the age of 30. At the same time, it has the fastest urban growth, with the number of people living in its cities expected to nearly triple by 2050. 

The continent’s dynamic and innovative creatives have an unprecedented potential for change. Curator Lesley Lokko describes them as “shape-shifters” in the 18th International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, entitled The Laboratory of the Future. Lokko, who sees Africa as such a laboratory, notes a seismic shift in the culture of architectural production as a whole: “The balance has shifted. Things fall apart. The centre can no longer hold.” 

How can African cities realise their potential as new, inclusive models specific to their geographical and historical contexts? How can we address the urgency of climate issues and rapidly rising water levels, and their inextricable link to a complex colonial past? 

What can we learn from local technologies and vernacular knowledge, and how can they provide answers to dynamic local, regional and global urban contexts? Join us as we explore, critically reflect and imagine alternative journeys into the future of African cities. 

Image by Floor Besuijen
Image by Floor Besuijen

The panel discussion was divided in four parts, and Building Beyond's 4 mentors guiding the 12 artists discussed the paradox between various cities' present conditions and the ‘prescribed’ futurity of the African city. They looked at how the proposed future of the African city is fuelled by unsustainable dynamics, and offer alternative tools and methods, such as using vernacular as a technology, mapping resonances, and bringing to light spatial imaginations. 

African Anthropocene

Moderated by architect and researcher, Nzinga B. Mboup

Reflecting on how the construct of modernity that continues to be sought in African cities is fuelled by extractive industries that create toxic landscapes and further marginalised communities.  

Featuring Wezile Harmans, neec nonso, Uzoma Orji.

Vernacular Technology

Moderated by cultural practitioner and curator, Hicham Bouzid

Focused on an urgent question about rethinking informality: How can we change the conversation about the informal economy in Africa?  

Featuring Arafa C. Hamadi, Helen Zeru, Olufemi Hinson Yovo.

Cities of Resonance

Moderated by artist and architect, Ola Hassanain

Moving beyond the perceived determinism of the future of the African city, and instead mapping the resonances in the work of African practitioners in order to connect our realities to the material conditions in which we find ourselves. 

Featuring Blqees Zuhair, Sara Fakhry Ismail, Jepkorir Rose.

Between Imaginary and Image

Moderated by architectural researcher and designer, Khensani Jurczok-de Klerk

Exploring the implications, frictions, and possibilities of spatial storytelling in geographies embedded in imaginaries of exclusion.  

Featuring Mika'il the Muezzin, Rania Atef, Ana Raquel Machava.

Watch the full panel discussion now!

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