Showing posts with label modern. Show all posts
Showing posts with label modern. Show all posts

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Rural Modern Library

The new generation of local Washington, DC public libraries coming on line have been referred to as "striking ... buildings that sit like aliens in their neighborhoods, thoroughly unlike their surroundings—and intentionally so." Two of the libraries--Hillcrest and Washington Highlands library/Bellevue--were designed by British architect David Adjaye -- who's of Ghanaian descent and was born in Tanzania.

In the video clip below Adjaye walks a young resident of Bellevue, a community that has seen decline since the the mass exodus of the middle class in the 1980s, through his design of the library. He talks about the power a library--one of the only public funded spaces dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge, hope and possibility--has in affecting its local community.


Already there are signs of a "library effect" in the spate of new development projects coming to the area. Lydia DePillis writes in Washington City Paper:
... local ANC commissioner and Friends of the Bellevue Library president Dionne Brown says she's fielded calls from developers excited about the new building, which is totally unlike anything the neighborhood has ever seen. "It created a signal," Brown says. "It created a ripple in the local economy."
She argues:
...the kind of architecture that reinvests neighborhoods with a sense of pride and erases the mistakes of the past is important, even if that means not every neighborhood gets something new. If you start looking at statistics already being collected on the new buildings—the rate of new card registrations in the old libraries vs. the new ones, or overall number of items checked out—you get much better bang for your buck.
Burkinabe architect Francis Kere has shown that rural African communities can also make use of other kinds of scale modern architecture can bring to, for example, a rural school building - as in his now famous design of a primary school building at Gando. Below, Hunter College's Kate Parry reaffirms how the library allows the notions of public space, community wellbeing, community pride and empowerment to all overlap. Using the example of a small village library she's been working with in Southern Uganda, she notes that libraries in rural African communities are not only centers for disseminating literacy but they also double as a hub for other community building activity.


FAVL's thoughts on building rural libraries in Africa - here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

"How Modern Jazz Figured in the Formation of a Modern African Identity" and Other Recent Jazz Writing

Robin D.G Kelly in Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Nathan I Huggins Lectures) (published February 2012), gives us a meditation on Africa, jazz and modernity: we see innovation not as an imposition from the West but rather as indigenous, multilingual, and messy, the result of innumerable exchanges across a breadth of cultures. From the prelude:
By exploring the work, conversations, collaborations, and tensions between both African and African American musicians during the era of decolonization, I examine how modern Africa figured in reshaping jazz during the 1950s and early 1960s, how modern jazz figured in the formation of a modern African identity, and how various musical convergences and crossings shaped and the political and cultural landscape on both continents. This book is not about the African roots of jazz, nor does it ask how American jazz musicians supported African liberation or "imagined" Africa. Rather, it is about the transnational encounters between musicians.
Other recent writings:
Musical Echoes: South African Women Thinking in Jazz (Refiguring American Music) by Carol Ann Muller and Sathima Bea Benjamin.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Venice and Makoko - "the Possibilities of Contradictions between Modernities"

Established in the 18th century primarily as a fishing village, much of Makoko rests in structures constructed on stilts above the Lagos Lagoon. As Lagos' waterfront development bulldozers make their way towards...


...the fishing community on water to pave way for modern-seeming facades, the lawyer in the video above implores us to take a closer look at Makoko as people coming together to solve a problem, and, perhaps,  we've failed to recognize--and help unleash--the "modernity" they've built. 

In Imagining Modernities, Lawrence Grossberg writes:
....I want to pose the problem of other modernities as the possibility of a multiplicity of ways of being modern, to avoid thinking of modernity as either singular or stable, or as if it were evolving through various stages (from early to late and eventually, post), as if its dynamics were somehow internal to itself. Yet neither it is useful to think of modernity in a narrative of ruptures. Instead I assume that transformations from one modernity to another are the outcome of both geo-historically specific trajectories and struggles, struggles that are often experienced and articulated reflexively as struggles over modernity... the question is not when or where modernity belongs but what it is to belong under the sign of modernity. I am not concerned with the contradictions within modernity but with the possibilities of contradictions between modernities. What would it mean to see modernity as multiple, always irreducibly not one, and as something that is both inescapable and to be won or produced, an object of continual contestation, always contingently being produced through the articulation of many different machineries, projects and struggles.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Remaking the Modern in Cairo

Excerpt from the 2003 review of the book:
. . . The study focuses on the ways in which people have altered the visible forms and uses of the spaces allotted to them by the government when they were relocated to al-Zawiya. The book describes the “tactics” and “strategies” employed by people in efforts to realize their visions as individuals and as families. These actions are explored as negotiations with which people selectively appropriate or reinterpret the various powerful forces that condition the context in which they take place. State, global, or religious discourses are not top-down influences to be dichotomously rejected or accepted by the poor. This study challenges the idea of modernity, particularly as it is discussed in relation to Muslim societies. For Ghannam, modernity is not a Western-defined ideal to be more or less successfully emulated by “other” societies, particularly in regard to the emphasis on secularization. Rather, residents of al-Zawiya are modern in that they are both attracted to a religious identity and to the desires and expectations stimulated by globalization, and deal with both in articulating identity and producing neighborhood space - Building the Urban Landscape with the Gendered Spatial Practices of Everyday Life, review of Farha Ghannam's "Remaking the Modern: Space, Relocation and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002" by Amy Mills (Department of Geography, University of Texas at Austin) Published on H-Gender-MidEast (June, 2003).
Read the rest of the review at CairObserver.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Modern Architecture in Tanzania

An excerpt from Dutch architect and film maker Jord den Hollander's 2009 documentary on Anthony B. Almeida and modern architecture in Tanzania...

From synopsis:
In 1950 architect Anthony B. Almeida was one of the first to introduce modern architecture in Tanzania. At that time architectural modernism was the preferred expression of the intended colonial welfare state. After Independence in 1961 Nyerere’s African socialism used the same architectural style to convey the hope and strength of the new African nation. Following Almeida and some of his colleagues, the film questions what is left of the dreams and ideals of this first generation. It searches for new definitions of happiness in booming African cities like today’s Dar es Salaam. The film documents the everlasting human pursuit of modernity, not only in architecture but also in contemporary urban life.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Call for Papers - Special Issue of African Identities

Call for papers for a special issue of African Identities to be published in the summer of 2012 (African Identities: Journal of Economics, Culture and Society)

Late Modernity, Locality and Agency: Contemporary Youth Cultures in Africa

More than a decade and half ago, Donal Cruise-O'Brien (1996) had declared that the African youth were 'a lost generation.' This fatalistic summation of the fate of the African youth was perhaps for good reason. The enormous socio-economic and cultural forces surrounding the lives of young people in Africa were [and still are] simply daunting. And at the very core of this seemingly insurmountable socio-economic atmosphere are the pervasive unjust protocols of postcolonial regimes under which most African youth live. Indeed, more recent scholarship suggests that there is no respite yet for the African youth as the hopeless situation has escalated (See Abbink, Jon and Ineke Van Kessel 2005 & Alcinda Honwana and Filip De Boeck 2005). On account of the inclement socio-economic and political circumstances surrounding young people in Africa, what we are now witnessing across the entire continent is what Mamodou Douf (2003) describes as the 'dramatic irruption of young people in both the domestic and public spheres,' putting young people at the very heart of the continent's socio-economic and political imagination (Durham 2006). But the challenges facing African youth are not peculiar to

All over the world, the new sociology of youth points to a growing concern about the ramifications of globalization, late modernity and general global social and economic restructuring for the lives and futures of young people. But amidst the lingering fears of the future of the young, scholars
have also called for a deep reflection and rethinking of young people's own resilience and agency in the midst of these turbulent times. This special issue of African Identities, tentatively entitled Late Modernity and Agency: Youth Cultures in Africa, seeks to reflect on the varied contours of youth responses to social change in Sub-Saharan Africa. While young people in Africa continue to face extraordinary social challenges in their everyday lives, what are the unique ways in which they have reinvented their circumstances to keep afloat in the midst of seismic global social changes? Papers are solicited on a wide range of topics on the African youth that may unravel young people not only as victims but also as active social actors in the face of a shifting global modernity. The themes may include amongst others,

- African Youth and Globalization
- Late Modernity and Social Change
- Youth and Media-Film, Television, Video, Internet, etc
- Hip-hop, Club Cultures and other forms of Popular culture
- Mobility and Social Media
- Gender and New Economies of Youth
- Democracy, Power and Youth Activism
- Youth and Conflict in Africa
- New Subjectivities and Agency
- Neo-Pentecostalism as Subculture
- The Informal Economy and Invented Pathways
- Lifestyles and Identity Constructions
- New Spatial Politics in Public and Domestic Spaces

Abstracts of not more than 500 words (including name, position, institutional affiliation, and email contact) may be sent to no later than September 30th, 2011. This special issue of African Identities will be published in the summer of 2012.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mozambique: What Makes African Elites Developmental Instead of Predatory?

Joseph Hanlon and Marcelo Mosse shed light in this UNU-WIDER working paper, Mozambique’s Elite – Finding its Way in a Globalized World and Returning to Old Development Models, on elite developmental capitalism (we recall Patience Kabamba presenting a similar case in relation to elites in the DRC - here).

Anyway, Hanlon and  Mosse claim "Mozambique’s elite were developmental at independence 35 years ago. With pressure and encouragement from international forces, it became predatory." The excerpt below explains how in the bid to ram through boiler plate free market policies, international forces implicitly okayed levels of elite corruption:
In an earlier article (Hanlon 2004), we argued that donors promoted corruption in Mozambique. In their rush to promote Mozambique as a free-market aid success, they entered into a tacit agreement with the elite that corruption would be permitted so long as ‘market-friendly’ policies and all other donor demands were accepted and publicly praised. The crunch came when the IMF and World Bank forced (Hanlon 2002) the privatization of two state banks in 1995 and 1996. In both cases honest central bank officials warned the Bretton Woods institutions that the only potential buyers were corrupt, but the reply was that even a corrupt privatization was better than state ownership.

This was an era of what was known as ‘goatism’ (cabritismo), from the saying ‘a goat eats where it is tied’. In other words, people wanted a share of whatever passed within their reach. No project could go ahead without local and national party officials extracting a share. The situation deteriorated so much that many projects could not go ahead because the share for the goats made them unprofitable. David Stasavage (1999) notes that this was encouraged by a civil service organization in which bureaucrats maintained extensive power and discretion over economic processes. Increasingly in the smaller neo-liberal state, bureaucrats only had power to block economic development and had few resources to assist, so they became increasingly rent seeking. Many of the corrupt Frelimo elite were supported by donors and the international financial institutions, who assured them that by becoming personally rich, they would actually promote development.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nigeria: @ 50, Cont'd

Recently Goodluck Johnathan and retired chief justice Alfa Belgore were going on about government structures and constitutions that are still alien and haven't been modified to recognize and include long held socio-political allegiances that still hold sway over the land.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Eritrea: Italian Influence on Asmara - Photography of Jean Robert

Get a load of photographer Jean Robert's amazing pics of the Eritean capital city as an Italian architectural time capsule (hover your cursor over pictures 4 captions):

Asmara, frozen city. Eritrea - Images by Jean Robert

From Robert's intro:
For many travelers it's a big surprise to discover a slick city crammed with architectural gems, a showcase of the Art Deco, cubist,expressionist,functionalist, futurist and neoclassical architectural styles. Mussolini and his fascist government who aimed to annex the neighboring country of Ethiopia developed Asmara between 1934 and 1940, expending enormous funds. The city, which is situated at an altitude of 2400 m, even called itself "Piccola Roma". The most developed city of the continent emerged as a result of large scale urban planning and the latest
architectonic inventions built by talented young Italian architects. The Italian population was increased from 4000 to 70 000 at this period and the native population doubled to 200 000. Isolated for nearly 30 years during its war against Ethiopia; Asmara escaped both the trend to build postcolonial piles and the push towards developing world urbanisation. Today Asmara remains a model Art deco town. Since 2005, an official application for status as part of the Unesco World cultural heritage programme has been under assessment.
Below, I couldn't resist rehashing this old post of MIT student John Ellis taking us behind the scenes of the sheer scale of Italian urban planning carried out in Asmara in the 1930s:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Africa/ United States: Black Humor in the Context of Modernity

To go along with Tate Liverpool's ongoing Afro-Modern: Jouneys Through the Black Atlantic exhibit, Tate Online asked cultural critic Greg Tate (i'm sure the pun was intended) his thoughts about Black humor in the context of modernity. His essay touches on everything from "the dozens" to Salt-n- Pepa and Notorious B.I.G lyrics to the afro-absurdism of MC Doom to letters of freed slaves to former masters - and he surmises:
The history of Wit in Black Modernity didn’t begin with hiphop of course. Where we find first evidence that African Americans were going to confront the collective’s tragedy with a comic twist was found in that uber-body of Black literature known as the Slave Narratives... At the end of the day finding humour where others might find shame, terror and horror is at the heart of the witty Negroes project...
That said, also rooted in Black humor, at least in the founding modern African novel, I think are the deployment of African proverbs; like Achebe said, "...they are the palm oil with which words are eaten." And under Afro-absurdism, I'll humbly add this recent find of comedian Tim Northern from Robert Clift's documentary, "Blacking Up":

But we should also include in the mix of Black humor in the context of modernism the growing comedy industry in some African countries, an expanding cadre of African stand up comedians and the reason why comedians in places like, for example, South Africa are needed to break through the tensions of racial reconciliation or, in Nigeria (and Africa as a whole), they are needed to weave life's dark material (or waste) into comedy classics like this:

Africa: Afro-Modern @ Tate Liverpool

Emerging Man, Harlem/Gordon Parks/1952 (Gelatin silver print)

The Gordon Parks pic is part of the ongoing Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic exhibit (Jan 29 - Apr 25), which takes its inspiration from Paul Gilroy's influential book The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness 1993. Exhibit explores the impact of different black cultures from around the Atlantic on art from the early twentieth-century to today - slide show.


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