For long, urban theorists have considered African metropolises either failed cities with hardly any services available, or more optimistically constant works-in-progress, and recently even as areas where the existing informal economies and social networks can teach us lessons for other rapidly growing urban areas. So, how is it? I am about to find out.
Afropolis is my multidisciplinary art project in which I aim to communicate through image and sound some of the dynamics of living in Addis Ababa, Dakar, Nouakchott or Saint-Louis, for starters. The idea for this sizzled in my head for the first time a long, long time ago when I witnessed how in Dakar there was no space for pedestrians to walk safely because all the pavements had been (and they still are) taken up by massive 4×4 cars. I was wondering: Where is this leading? Are there urban planners and if so, is their ultimate goal in life to have a ridiculously big and expensive 4×4 car that they can park just about anywhere at the expense of the poor pedestrians?
Another, more recent phenomena that also pushed me to start this project was the “satellite cities” and luxurious residential areas that are being created in numerous countries, often with foreign investments, in the outskirts of big cities, or in some cases in the very heart of them. This process of changing the city is visually very appealing to me and tickles my sense of place, and of space.
I am asking: how do these cities work? In this part of the world urban dynamics seem to have layers and layers of their own specific twists and I would like to poke those layers and document people’s views, hopes, imaginations and their own experience of the urban environment, whether they call it “home” or otherwise. Don’t get me wrong: I am not building a case against what does not work in a city, quite the contrary: with Afropolis I want to envisage and promote the amazing energies of these cities. Hopefully it will lead to reactions, suggestions, and collaborations among those of you who feel somehow connected to these places. In the long run I hope to be able to reveal stories on and by people living in urban environments and their in centres, peripheries and in-betweens.