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UNDERCOVER AFRICAN MODERNITY However, the African originated modernization process that so promisingly commenced with the great palaces of the late 19th century, did not come to a standstill. The development of African modernity actually increased in momentum and spread wide and far by the turn of the century. Yet this time in an undercover fashion, in a way that has fashionably become known as ‘informal’ architecture and urbanism. In the organization of the new colonial state, the Africans were, by and large, separated from the colonial settlers. The settlers planned and built themselves modern settlements on the most attractive locations, not accessible for the African population who were thus deprived from the benefits of the ‘formalized’ modernity, with its neatly laid out streets, infrastructure and breezy architecture. The Africans lived in informal settlements, next to the European towns, which quickly expanded and soon overtook the formal towns in terms of size. These informal settlements started off in traditional vernacular building typologies and technologies, but soon commenced to modernize themselves. Traditional vernacular building in rural materials such as earth and thatch made room for modern industrial materials such as galvanized iron roof sheets and cement building blocks. Traditional typologies and organic forms, compoundbased housing and loose types of rural fabric were replaced by the dark continent, full of misery caused by deceases slavery and other primitive behavioural, and needed to be saved and modernized. Henceforth, African modernity had thus to be better forgotten. A typical case in this context is what fate befell the Pagoda in Douala. The royal family resisted German imperial intrusion, but lost their independence and their prince, who was hung for insubordination by the new rulers of the country. The Pagoda was converted into a German administration building, and after the First World War, when Cameroon was placed under the protection of the French, it became the colonial forestry office. In the 1980s, the Pagoda proudly re-appears on the front cover of the book by Wolfgang Lauber on colonial German Architecture in Cameroon,7 but it can be seriously questioned if the Pagoda should qualify as a German colonial building. The development of African originated modern architecture was thus frustrated around the turn of the 19th century, to make place for the introduction of a Eurocentric modernity. Instead of a continent that was modernizing itself, an image of Africa as the exotic but primitive continent was created that acted as backdrop for the necessary modernization to European template, thus establishing a construed Romantic Modernist memory. The modernization process was taken into hand by engineers, architects and urban planners of exclusively European origin. 177 dis Ababa as a maze of steel, timber and glass pavilions interlinked with bridges in the late 1880s. The royal Rova palace complex, in Antananarivo was modernized from the early years of the 19th century onwards and the queen of Madagascar added an airy steel and glass belvedere to the complex in the 1890s. Nigerian noblemen and princes dotted the country with their modern country villas and urban palaces over the last decades of the 19th century and the king of Cameroon, Auguste Manga Ndumbe constructed his towering residence in Douala in 1905. Ndumbe’s palace would become known as the Pagoda, as it strongly reminiscences oriental architectural influences. Possibly, back in London during his university years, Ndumbe became befriended with Asian students or teacher? Sultan Bargash’s new ceremonial palace on Zanzibar, constructed in the early 1880s, was baptized the House of Wonders, and for good reason. With its four stories of cast iron columns and reinforced concrete beams it towered over Stone Town, and was brightly lit by hundreds of electric light bulbs at night. Closer observation of these palaces unveils that, although strikingly modern, these buildings contain important elements of traditional typologies. Menelik’s palace reverts back to the traditional compound with a number of doublestoried circular Tukuls, and so does the Antananarivo pavilion incorporate the traditional timber building typology of the Rova palaces. Bargash’s House of Wonders can be dissected into a clever combination of the traditional, introvert Omani desert palace, the Indian breezy bungalow and the traditional Swahili house with the barazas and umbrella roofs of Zanzibar. This early emergence of Royal African architectural modernity proved to be short lived. By the turn of the century, the whole of Africa, with the noteworthy exception of Ethiopia and Liberia, was conquered and colonized by the European imperialists. In this scramble for Africa, African royalty was banished, killed or subdued. The same fate befell their palaces; they were destroyed or appropriated by the colonizers and converted into administration buildings or residences for the new masters. African originated modernity and modern architecture fitted uneasily in the justification of the colonization of the continent, which was based on the badly needed civilization of the African continent. Africa was


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