The seventh and latest edition of Cityscapes is framed around the rubric of “futurity”.
What will tomorrow be like?
It will be more urbanised. It will also, agree various contributors, bear the imprimatur of China. “Whatever the case, China has, for now, become a far more prominent actor than others in the future-making of Africa,” asserts philosopher Achille Mbembe in an anchoring essay, “to the point where Africa is now not only a planetary question … but also and more specifically a Chinese question.” Contributors Philip Harrison, Yan Yang, Tanya Pampalone and Mary Anne Fitzgerald expand and complicate this assertion.
As in past issues, this issue includes penetrating discussions with key administrators and theorists. AbdouMaliq Simone asks anthropologist Filip De Boeck about his on-going project about new urban extensions in Kinshasa. We also interview Alfredo Garay, one of Latin America’s most influential urbanists, and Parks Tau, executive mayor of Johannesburg. “We need to start talking about the future, and specifically, what sort of future are we building,” states Tau. “And that future has to be about greater equity, in cities that have been defined by disparity.”
The difficult task of remaking Africa’s cities is also the focus of an editorial by respected journalist and author Robert Neuwirth. “Planners and architects seem to have a nasty little habit: they collude with developers and politicians to make every city look like every other city,” provocatively writes Neuwirth. “The pressure to rationalize the often irrational ways in which African cities have developed is built into their DNA.”
Technology, that panacea of technocrats and sci-fi geeks, is also discussed: in a long-form feature investigating what went wrong with the City of Tshwane’s move to adopt a smart metering system to vend electricity, and a discussion between two renowned authors working in speculative and science-based fiction genres. “What does science fiction have going for it that makes it easy for people to get sucked into?” wonders Nnedi Okorafor, a Nigerian-American novelist, in an exchange with South African writer Lauren Beukes. “This is something working scientists need to learn.”
The issue includes interviews with scholars Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer, who spent five years researching informal marketplaces globally, and showcases photographic essays by Filipe Branquinho, Jason Larkin, Lindokuhle Sobekwa, Guillaume Bonn and Graeme Williams.