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neo-gothic, neo-renaissance or eclecticst styles as was the case in Europe, and the young European architects did not have to fight heritage institutions or conservative clients as was the case in their home countries. This simplified memory consisting of pure and shining modernism against the backdrop of the exotic African vernacular, continued its dominance until well after independence of the African nations. However, at the beginning of the 21st century, the last parts of African Arcadia are retreading into the remotest corners of the savannah and the fantastic collection of modernist architecture of the 1930s to the 1970s is being engulfed by the booming African metropolis. The current interest in Africa’s modernist architecture through documentation, study, publication and exposition5 is of great importance for the creation of awareness on the great beauty and value of this heritage. A welcome side-effect of this enhanced academic interest is that, through this re-exploration of the African continent by scholars from all over the world, new strands of modern memories are being discovered. The 20th century modernization of Africa’s architectural landscape appears to be far from an exclusive north-south influx. Freed Brazilian slaves brought a tropical modern architecture on their way back to Africa as early as the late 19th century, and a tropical art-deco style of reinforced concrete typologies developed in India appeared in Africa in the 1930s. More recently, during the Cold War years, Polish, East-German, Russian, It was seen as an interesting cultural expression of past and primitive times, but irrelevant for the architecture of today and tomorrow. In Africa, during the European ‘exploration’ of the continent, first by the adventurers and soon followed by the cultural anthropologists, vernacular architecture became subject of extensive recording and research, and remained so until the second half of the 20th century. Through this research, authentic African culture was defined. Piece by piece, tribe by tribe, Africa was reconstructed as it would have been before the advent of European modernity. This creation of authenticity is a quintessential part of the Romantic Modernist construct, and it managed to establish the perceived image of a primitive but Arcadian African, a continent in balance with nature and cosmos, a notion that has persisted up to today. Authenticity however, is a misleading notion, as it assumes a fixed moment in time, which cannot be defined, as everything is constantly changing. In African architecture, fixing authenticity in time is possibly even more complicated as in Europe because of the fact that architecture was intentionally ephemeral. It was against this backdrop of ‘mis-en scène’ African Arcadia that the European imperialists built up their colonies. Modern engineering and later modernist architecture became the building tools for the creation of the colonial state. Africa soon became prime playing ground for modernist architects as the continent did not have to be freed of the 175 African Arcadia in the 1930s: a village scene in Upper Volta (African Architecture Matters). An example of ephemeral heritage: the Central Mosque at Djenné, Mali. A World Heritage Site that changes every year a little due to the maintenance work to the mud   plaster (Joep Mol). Modernism in Africa: the Central Library in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania by Anthony Almeida, ca 1970   (African Architecture Matters). Chinese modernism in Africa: the Tazara Terminal Railway Station in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, ca 1975 (Joep Mol).


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