Sightlines: New Perspectives on African Architecture and Urbanism

Sightlines: New Perspectives on African Architecture and Urbanism

The Museum for African Art, New York, and Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies, Committee on Global Thought, and Center for African Education have announced the creation of Sightlines: New Perspectives on African Architecture and Urbanism, a lecture series devoted to Africa’s rapidly changing urban environments.

Sightlines will comprise talks by distinguished practitioners of architecture, urban planning, and architectural theory, each of whom will apply his or her particular area of expertise to the exploration of contemporary African cities as unique built environments. The lectures, which will be open to the public free of charge (see schedule below), will examine the architectural, social, physical, and emotional contours of the cities, while also addressing the global relevance and applicability of this emerging field of discourse. Sightlines additionally includes a lecture by Senegalese artist Viyé Diba, whose work is tied to urbanization.

Complete lectures schedule after the break.

Lectures will take place on Wednesday evenings, from 6:30 to 7:45 pm, as follows:

January 26, 2011

Viyé Diba—Environment and Object: Exploring Urban Topographies Columbia University, Knox Hall, Room 208, 606 West 122nd Street, New York City

Prominent Senegalese artist Viyé Diba will speak about his recent work, created using objects and materials from African cities, including Dakar, where the artist lives. Diba uses a range of local found and appropriated materials, including woven strips of cloth customarily used for shrouds, sand, and recycled objects. He will discuss the significance of their transformation into works of art.

Mr. Diba, who was awarded the Grand Prix at the 1998 Dak’Art biennial, has had solo exhibitions in Germany, France, Belgium, and Spain, and has been shown in national and international group exhibitions, including the Johannesburg Biennale and at Centre d’art contemporain de Bruxelles. From February 5 through July 31, 2011, his work may be seen in the exhibition Environment and Object in Recent African Art, at the Tang Museum, Skidmore College. He is a professor at the National School of Fine Arts in Dakar.

In French with English translation.

February 16, 2011

Rebecca Ginsburg—Black Women in White Johannesburg: Domestic Workers’ Spatial Strategies under Apartheid Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, Room 1501, 420 West 118th Street, New York City

In mid-twentieth-century South Africa, thousands of black women left rural areas to find work in the households of suburban white families. Many headed to Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city and industrial powerhouse, which was a racially and ethnically divided space. University of Illinois Professor Rebecca Ginsburg explores the ways in which domestic workers’ mobility was severely limited under Apartheid-era legislation and how these women responded and overcame these restrictions.

Dr. Ginsburg, who lived for several years in South Africa, teaches courses on historic African cities and the Atlantic slave trade, among other subjects. Her current research interests include fugitive landscapes and geographies of the Atlantic slave trade. Dr. Ginsburg’s previous publications include The Landscapes of North American Slavery; Historical Geography, and Landscape Journals, among other titles.

March 23, 2011

Labelle Prussin—“Convivencia” at Timbuktu: Jewish Influence on West African Architecture Columbia University, Teachers College, Horace Mann Hall, Room 138, 525 West 120th Street, New York City

In the past, many in the academic community viewed West Africa as isolated from the rest of the continent. Distinguished scholar and curator Labelle Prussin has been exploring a historic nexus of Jewish traders, scholars, builders, and artisans at Timbuktu and her research links them to North Africa via the historic trans-Saharan trade routes. Dr. Prussin will share examples of architectural and artisanal similarities that may point to an Islamic-cum-Judaic convivencia (coexistence) which contributed to and enriched the African architectural landscape.

Dr. Prussin, an independent curator, has spent four decades undertaking archival research and fieldwork in African arts and architecture. She has taught at the University of Science and Technology in Ghana, the University of Michigan, University of Washington, and City University of New York. In 2007 Dr. Prussin was appointed Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kwazulu-Natal, in Durban, South Africa.

April 13, 2011

Mary Jo Arnoldi—Monuments, Urbanism, and Modernity in Post-Colonial Mali Columbia University, Teachers College, Horace Mann Hall, Room 138, 525 West 120 Street, New York City

Between 1960, the year of Mali’s independence, and today, the population of the capital city of Bamako has grown from about 120,000 to well over a million residents. The city is home to dozens of large-scale public sculptures—most built between 1995 and 2002—intended to re-inscribe and re-imagine the urban landscape. In this lecture, Mary Jo Arnoldi, Curator of African Ethnology and Arts at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, discusses the vision of modernity expressed by these monuments and other elements of Bamako’s built environment.

Mary Jo Arnoldi has extensive experience in West Africa, including time spent in the Peace Corps in Dakar. She has been conducting research in Mali since 1978 and has published widely on its arts and performance, cultural heritage, social life, and history. Dr. Arnoldi was the lead curator for the National Museum of Natural History’s permanent “African Voices” exhibition.

April 25, 2011

Discussion between Albie Sachs and James Hoge Columbia University, Teachers College, Horace Mann Hall, Room 138, 525 West 120th Street, New York City

Renowned South African anti-apartheid activist and Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs played a critical role in ensuring that healing and hope were expressed by both the architecture and the art collection of the new Constitutional Court building, opened in 2004 on the site of the notorious Old Fort Prison Complex, on Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill. This discussion between Justice Sachs and international-affairs expert James Hoge will include a screening of A Light on a Hill: A Tour of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Albert Louis (“Albie”) Sachs has for forty years symbolized conscience and courage in his nation’s human-rights struggle. As a civil-rights attorney, international-law professor, and member of the African National Congress, Sachs fought against the injustice of apartheid and helped draft South Africa’s post-apartheid Constitution. He was twice jailed without trial, and a near-fatal car bombing cost him an arm. After the first democratic election in 1994, Justice Sachs was appointed by President Nelson

Mandela to serve on the newly established Constitutional Court. He is the author of numerous books on human rights, including his memoir The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law, for which he won the 2010 Alan Paton Award, a South African literary prize.

James Hoge was for eighteen years editor of Foreign Affairs magazine. Prior to this, he was Washington correspondent and then editor and publisher of the Chicago Sun- Times, and publisher of the New York Daily News. He has been a fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Columbia University’s Freedom Forum Media Center, and has served on the American Political Science Association’s Congressional program. Mr. Hoge is currently affiliated with numerous nonprofit organizations, including Human Rights Watch, of which he is the chairman; the International Center for Journalists; and the Center for Global Affairs at New York University, among others.

About this author
Cite: Sebastian Jordana. "Sightlines: New Perspectives on African Architecture and Urbanism" 21 Jan 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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