AFRICA: Who Are You?

Views From The Radical Perspective

Walter Rodney’s book titled “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” is a classic read for most students of political science. This is because Africans concede that Europe, through colonialism, actually undeveloped Africa. The most popular forms of post-colonialism discussions are Imperialism and Neocolonialism, as well as cultural “devaluation” envisaged by the gradual extinction of African Languages. But what is most interesting is that “Africa’s Declaration of Independence” set the tone for an Automatic Process of willful Self-Colonialism in various manifestations especially in African Architecture. Thus the question, “Africa, WHO ARE YOU?” As an attempt to answer the question, we are drawn to a few premise and narratives to first, validate the question before attempting an answer. Dwelling on Architecture, one would see a picture of Canada, Singapore, Japan, or China and be quick to identify the respective country without much assistance. On the other hand, one would look at a picture of Britain and Nigeria, France and Benin; generally, the entire urban-built Africa would most likely look like Europe! In hindsight, the 2000 Annual Global Conference of Architects recorded as part of the events, a Tour Guide was assigned to show the visiting architects the architectural beauty of the city. The architects appreciated the gesture but did not find any reason to take pictures. When asked “why”, they replied that there is nothing special about the buildings because they are all European structures. In present day Nigeria, the Centenary City being built takes the form of Dubai’s Architectural designs, not African cultural designs. A market survey for Tile choices in most African countries will, more often than not, reveal the dominance of Spanish tiles with Spanish cultural designs on them, not African designs! We must therefore pose the questions, beyond the language, what has Africa lost or what is Africa losing, consciously or unconsciously? What is the true cultural interpretation of building cities modeled after European States vis colonialism? Is Africa building “a modern Africa” after her “own cultural image” or after an image that will constantly remind posterity “in whose image our ‘Nations’ were made”? Do you possess the moral authority to condemn the loss of African language and support the construction of European buildings and cities, so much that Africa is losing her Architectural culture? Apart from the cultural implication, the traditional material for building was mud, what Contemporary Western Architecture refers to as “Rammed Earth”. Rammed Earth has enormous benefits in construction, ranging from Environmental sustainability, Cost Effectiveness and its cooling effect in housing. Why then should Africa not return to Her first building-love? Again, we must ask the question: Africa, WHO ARE YOU? Are you Africans or Europeans with brown skin? Yes, Europe underdeveloped Africa Economically; but is it unjust to say the same culturally, especially in Built Environment? Today the Continent has a chance to define herself in her own cultural image for the world to behold her splendor; she must rise up, show the world who she is and reclaim her identity for the glory and cultural preservation of Africa!
The Community Planning & Design Initiative Africa's photo.
The Community Planning & Design Initiative Africa's photo.

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