The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Creative Cities

The contemporary notion of the ‘creative city’, connected to present-day regimes of digital urban creative (or smart) cities in neoliberal, city branding, place marketing, digital marketing nomads, is a dominant trope of international progress and development, and there has been a surprisingly positive, yet often uncritical uptake of the discourses of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Buzz words abound in city studies such as resilience, sustainability, innovation, and inequality, yet these are all too often framed within scientific, technical and political economy debates. As editors, we are interested in how these issues seldom appear as carefully considered questions integrated with scholarship around the social and especially the aesthetic. This collection seeks to frame critical approaches to architecture and urbanism, exploring new and alternative disciplinary forms of writing, thinking and making the city. Beyond the current debates, the work of authors in this collection variously surface patterns of critical interdisciplinary thought and historicise this in relation to debates in African Studies, historical and heritage studies as well as in the creative arts and popular culture realms.

Creative Cities in Africa will examine how the built environment and its complex relationship to aesthetics, art and design, were part of the historical processes of city building or city transformation. Through decolonial struggles, independence and after, high modernism, and the search for African authentic identity, ‘creativity’ has been employed to build and shape cities that needed to respond to challenges of the day. Architects, landscapers, craftspeople, musicians, artists, designers, curators, restorers, model-makers from Africa and Europe were involved in imaging, structuring and shaping African cities. How did politicians, planners and power brokers deploy notions of creativity across the history of African cities from colonialism onwards and how did their plans correspond to the practices of creative practitioners in ‘contemporary’ art, gallery design, curatorial practice, heritage management, music, public sculpture and public art, decorative programmes and ecological design? In thinking through dream maps of the unbuilt, unplanned, and ‘informal’ architectures and aesthetic, exhibitions and speculative and Afrofuturist propositions the volume brings together a variety of creative writing in a scholarly frame about the African city.

The volume draws together planners, artists, architects, historians, literary and visual scholars from across the continent and the globe into debate on critical architecture and urbanism in Africa. The voices brought together, ranging from internationally-renowned figures to emerging scholars, provide analysis of African cities — Ville Fantôme, Johannesburg, Lubumbashi, Dakar, Nairobi, Douala, Dalaba, Durban, and Maputo.

Product information

Format : 168mm x 240mm
Pages : 214
ISBN 13 : 978-0-7969-2648-7
Publish Year : February 2024
Rights : World Rights

Acronyms and Abbreviations

Introduction: What do creative cities create?

Chapter 1: Ville Fantôme: African cities as prolegomena

Chapter 2: Johannesburg the Nelson Mandela Bridge as a sign of urban transformation

Chapter 3: Lubumbashi: An “open air architectural museum”? Shifting narrations on the architectural and urban landscapes of a (post)colonial city in DR Congo

Chapter 4: Dakar: Scaffolding for monuments to the African Renaissance

Chapter 5: Nairobi: Creative empires of South African design

Chapter 6: Douala: Everydayness and creativity otherwise

Chapter 7: Dalaba: Sol d’Exil

Chapter 8: Durban: Expressions of socio-cultural identities in the architecture of the Surat Hindu Association

Chapter 9: Maputo: Monumentality and Architectural Discretion

Chapter 10: Johannesburg: The Trinity Session and empathic, creative city making in Paterson Park

List of contributors


Noëleen Murray holds a Research Chair in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. From 2015- 2019 she was the Director of the Wits City Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand and the Andrew W. Mellon Chair in Critical Architecture and Urbanism. Her architectural degrees (BAS, B.Arch and M.Arch) and her PhD (African Studies) are from the University of Cape Town. Her key academic books include Desire Lines – Space, Memory and Identity in the Postapartheid City (2007); and Becoming UWC, Reflections, pathways and the unmaking of apartheid’s legacy (2012). Her book, Hostels, Homes Museum, memorializing migrant labour pasts in Lwandle South Africa, co-authored with Leslie Witz, appeared in 2014 and was awarded the Michael M. Ames Award for Innovative Museum Anthropology by the Council for Museum Anthropology of the American Association of Anthropologists. Her recent publications include being guest editor for special editions of the journals Thesis Eleven, Anthropology Southern African and Critical African Studies (2016)

Jonathan Cane is an A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Oceanic Humanities for the Global South at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He Holds a PhD in art history from the University of the Witwatersrand and is the author of Civilising Grass: The Art of the Lawn on the South African Highveld (2019), a queer postcolonial study of gardening in Johannesburg and its surrounds.

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