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whole: a succession of samples of materials and narratives that we have considered particularly important to describe. Across the whole range of these six cities one of the most salient themes is the informal neighbourhoods – that is, the self-grown, unplanned, never officially recognized and therefore also only scantily serviced areas – which are usually home to the great majority of the population of the city in question. One of the interesting and instructive features of these informal neighbourhoods, as Edgar Pieterse puts it in the present catalogue, is that “Urban dwellers are nothing if not resilient. Somehow, across diverse urban settings, people are able to find room to hustle, invest, hedge, negotiate, contract, support, extract, deal, consolidate, expand and continuously recalibrate their positions in relation to scarce resources and opportunities”.4 The informal neighbourhoods, which are often and actually rather misleadingly simply described as slums, are one of the examples of the resources that these cities possess. People’s ability to create a life in the absence of much public assistance is quite admirable. The informal neighbourhoods are in fact whole cities in their own right with all the authorities and businesses one could expect; created by the citizens themselves – and in reality one could claim that here it is the distances between people that are the infrastructure. In direct opposition to the people’s self-constructed neighbourhoods stands the tendency that Pieterse calls “made-up urbanism” and describes as “the decontextualized, eliteoriented investments in enclave differences and paradoxes, even within the individual countries. CITIES – ‘SMART CITY ARMATURES’ VERSUS INFORMAL RESOURCES The cities are increasingly becoming the scene of co-existence – and the biggest challenge. The African continent is experiencing population growth in the cities, surpassing in numbers the same – already very clear – tendency in other parts of the world. The local rural population and refugees from other countries meet and mix in the horizontal endlessness of the African metropoles. “Though African cities are quite different from one another, these are the main struggles that most African cities share: overcoming colonial inheritances of poverty, underdevelopment and socio-spatial inequality; dealing with informal sectors and settlements; governing justly; forging nonviolent environments; and coping with globalization.”3 Looking at construction projects and life around them renders visible the challenges in six widely differing cities: Dakar in Senegal, Lagos in Nigeria, Nairobi in Kenya, Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Maputo in Mozambique and Johannesburg in South Africa. A crucial feature of the selection has been the great geographical spread and the very different colonization histories represented by the cities. The history, topography, demography and development of Dakar are quite different from those of Maputo. Rather than a comparative study of the six cities, their respective stories resemble the exhibition as a exhibition’s focus, whose only picture of an exotic animal is a muzzled hyena beneath a motorway flyover.2 15 In order to stress that ‘the African’ is a nonidentifiable category the exhibition begins by showing works and projects that have not been selected by the curators themselves. Instead a group of contributors have been chosen – artists, architects, writers, designers – with a deliberate geographical spread across the continent, from Senegal farthest west through Kenya in the east and on to the southernmost country, South Africa. They have been asked to contribute to a section that is about where we belong, and with whom or what we identify ourselves with. With the grand narrative of Africa or an attempt to unravel it? With the Igbo people in Nigeria? With one’s parents? With a special way of living that one recalls from one’s childhood? With the clothes one wears? With a transnational community of creative and equal individuals? With a new nation? With a cartography? We hear more than twenty different voices in the section, a polyphony of personal diversity and complexity that counteracts hidebound notions of Africa and the picture of a unitary African culture. The issue of identities leads on to a narrative of navigating in a present that appears opaque and fragmented. In many parts of the world people live with very fixed partitions between different aspects of their social life (public/private, living/ dead, inside/outside). In sub-Saharan Africa these overlap and are interwoven. The interlacing of the social domains (religion, kinship, politics, etc.) reflects a need for openings and flexible adaptation; what one could call a kind of controlled imperfection. This need is manifested for example in the incorporation of an entirely foreign building style, an acceptance of the foreign in the local community and the maintenance of co-existence with the European colonial powers. The openness is not about creating a homogeneous sense of unity, but about permitting interactions in a fragile social environment without getting in one another’s way. A strong will to reconcile the irreconcilable seems crucial: the co-existence of paradoxical opposites is marked in a number of striking architectural and artistic projects: the visible and the invisible, tradition and modernity, present-day reality and imagined futures, the familiar and the alien. Co-existence is crucial to the way one builds and dwells across the African continent, typified as it is by great internal


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