P105 – Not No Place? Images of the African City
10 July, 09:00 – 10:30

Malcomess Bettina / University of Witwatersrand, Wits School of Arts, Division of Visual Arts
Kreutzfeldt Dorothee /


This panel proposes to reflect on collaborative methodologies and strategies in relation to engagements with the city. A starting point for this is our collaborative book, Not No Place – Johannesburg, Fragments of Spaces and Times (2013). We would like to think through and critically reflect on projects that attempt to search for forms that reflect the complexities of the contemporary postcolonial city. The panel asks questions about the commerce and incommensurability between artistic strategies and other research methodologies drawn from the social sciences and humanities. We are interested in how the refusal to occupy a singular disciplinary space is both productive and a site of difficulty. How far do these collaborations become generative of a structure for seeing, occupying or understanding the city? Does this ‘structure’ produce a discursive space, a position from which to represent or articulate a city’s complexities? How far do such collaborative, interdisciplinary projects produce have the potential to transform urban spaces/imaginaries? What is the ephemeral temporality of these interventions that stage the complexities of urban spaces? The presentations encompass examples from artistic practice, film, dance, performance and visual anthropology. In each case there is a refusal of a singular methodology in favour of an approach that employs diverse modes of making and representation.

Not No Place? Images de la ville africaine
En partant de notre livre collectif Not No Place – Johannesburg, Fragments of Spaces and Times (2013), nous souhaitons réfléchir de manière critique sur des projets qui tentent de chercher des formes reflétant les complexités de la ville postcoloniale contemporaine. Le panel pose des questions sur le commerce et l’incommensurabilité entre les stratégies artistiques et d’autres méthodes de recherche tirées des sciences sociales et humaines. En quoi refuser de se limiter à un seul espace disciplinaire peut-être à la fois productif et difficile ? Dans quelle mesure ces projets collaboratifs interdisciplinaires produisent une structure permettant de comprendre l’occupation ou la vision de la ville? Cette « structure » produit-elle un espace discursif, une position à partir de laquelle représenter ou articuler les complexités d’une ville? Jusqu’à quel point ces projets collaboratifs interdisciplinaires permettent-ils transformer les espaces urbains/imaginaires? Quelle est la temporalité éphémère de ces interventions qui mettent en scène la complexité des espaces urbains? Les communications proposent des exemples tirés de la pratique artistique, cinéma, danse, performance et l’anthropologie visuelle. Refusant une méthodologie unique nous privilégions une approche de diverses pratiques et représentations.

Paper 1

Santanera Giovanna / Università di Milano Bicocca & EHESS

Douala on Air: the Shimmering Image of the City in the Local Movie Production

Douala (Cameroon) hosts a thriving production of low-budget movies, aired by the local private television channels. These movies are generally seen as sort of “mirrors” of the city by their authors and viewers. Taking this local interpretation as a point of departure, this paper will investigate the shimmering image of Douala on screen, focusing on those recent movies that “don’t seem to be made in Cameroon”, according to their authors’ words. In particular, I will analyze the careful selection of the parts of the urban landscape to show, the explicit quotation of foreign movies, and the radical transformation of the acting style. While this was previously connected to the local tradition of popular theater and bouffonnerie, nowadays it incorporates face expressions, body gestures and voice tones of the foreign actors seen on cable televisions. I will conclude that these aesthetic devices are not only strategies to win over an international audience. They also visualize (and shape) the multiplicity of space-time dimensions typical of the urban experience of Douala, where people continuously move and image to move to an elsewhere (such as the invisible world of witchcraft, Europe or the home-village).Furthermore, they open new possibilities of living and conceptualizing the city that concretize what Douala could be in the future.As such, these movies are mirrors that reflect (upon) Douala although (or because) they “don’t seem to be made in Cameroon”.

Paper 2

Nomaduma Masilela / Columbia University

Set Setal’s Imaginaire

Meaning ‘be clean, make clean’ in Wolof, set setal was an urban movement led by the disenfranchised youth of Dakar to physically and metaphorically ‘cleanse’ Senegal of its many social and political ills. Between the years 1988 to 1991 youths of the neighborhoods organized community street cleanings and painted a cornucopia of murals and sculptures that served as visual loudspeakers for socio-political messages, histories, and mythologies. This paper will examine set setal’s engagement with urban Dakar space through a formal analysis of set setal murals, roundabouts, central squares, and statues, and by examining the ways in which they reconfigured the city space to better reflect the needs of those who used it. While set setal reflects effective Lefebvrian appropriation, it was the stories that artists actively spun about their individual works which helped construct the urban ‘imaginaire‘ of Dakar, which, in turn, reconfigured the city residents sense of self to better reflect the emerging city. These stories were shared within intimately within communities, and continued to be spun and expanded during interviews conducted. Using a combination of documentary photographs of set setal objects and interviews with set setal artists and cultural agents, this paper works to examine the ways that artists manipulate the narratives surrounding these objects; this reflects an understanding of the malleability of the the discourse surrounding art objects, and by association, the city.

Paper 3

Lanquetin Jean-Christophe / Collectif ScU2

Duconseille François / Collectif ScU2

Shifting Representations through Artistic Practices in Urban Contexts

Urban scénos are a process of drawing artistic practices in a city. They open a space and a time to artists from multiple horizons during a collective residency, in a specific urban environment, they live and work on site, in immersion. The fact of being there is an essential element of the project. Through that the dynamic of processes and experiences becomes possible.The key entry is the « horizontal city », the dynamics produced by inhabitants: daily practices, body – « body politics », « the deal », translations, theatricality, performativity, the game, the spectral, the informal. We will question how Urban Scenes participate alongside African artists in the collective dynamics to a transformation of the image and the challenges of certain neighborhoods and how its inhabitants perceive themselves. We are both witnesses and accomplices of these micro-mutations processes that fit into these urban spaces and the collective memory of the inhabitants. How do these artists position themselves in the field of contestations, resistances, revolts ; how do they play with the boundaries, the impossibilities ? What kind of collective actions, ways of transgression, forms of militantism they develop, how do they approach gender issues ? Wouldn’t they be occupying unprecedented spaces, discover singular forms, evoking for instance, the ‘non movements’, as Asef Bayat describe them, these ‘discrete’ forms of occupation of commons spaces.

Paper 4

Mokgotho Nare / University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Moiloa Molemo / Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA)

Corner Loving: Imagining a New Language for Black Love

It is difficult to speak about love, specifically romantic love, as an intellectual concept worthy of rigorous and critical engagement. This is largely due to a lack of suitable ways of speaking about love that might bring to the fore new or more nuanced understandings of our contemporary moment. In addition to introducing much needed narratives of black people in love to the current hegemony of hypersexuality, promiscuity and lovelessness associated with the black body – Corner loving – an exhibition by Johannesburg-based artist collaborative MADEYOULOOK, sought to effect shifts in ways of speaking about the concept of love. Collaborative and interdisciplinary, the project brought together a group of people engaging similar ideas, texts from archives as well as by contemporary writers, drawings and a lecture series. This article considers MADEYOULOOK’s ongoing interest in interdisciplinarity as a generative tool for knowledge production and its uncertainties about the ability
of singular strategies to fully express the multiple dimensions around such a complex subject. Corner loving exists as an intersection of texts and modes of working to develop a kind of Creole lexicon in order to articulate a new imaginary of black love.

Paper 5

Pesa Sello / Ntsoana Contemporary Dance theatre

Ouamba Andreya / Association 1er Temps

A City Looking for its Own Audience: Artists in Conversation

Through the observation of people, their rituals and activities and passers by in the city; through observing a specific area, walking the same area and mapping it in order to create relationships with people and participate in the activities it is possible to understand the subtleties of a city. Shifts occur and owners of the city abandon it – new members move in to the center and the old members who are pushed to the outskirts forge integration and multiculturalism . We witness the failure of multiculturalism. As an immigrant, is it possible to keep your identity in a foreign country? Post colonial cities have led to a redefinition of a city itself and the city has become wrestling platform for the old and the new. Contemporary society and traditional society are waging a battle with religion as a mediator of the two to create new forms. A changing city is finding new symbolism and meaning. Artistic practice plays a great role in bring to the fore the ongoing challenges faced in today’s shifting demographics as it creates a microcosm for observation. With our practice as artists and choreographers, based respectively in Dakar and Johannesburg, we would like to reflect on how our work engages with the complexities of a contemporary southern city, our approaches in relation to a context How our work enters in dialog and in confrontation with multiple representations of the city, participates of their emergence, or escapes, stays elusive.

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