Art and the Public Interest: A view from Joburg’s Premier Public Art Gathering

“Public access”, the theme of Johannesburg’s second conference on public art, held November 16-18, was aptly cued the night before the talkshop as attempts to host a tea-drinking ceremony in Hillbrow were almost scuppered. The planned street closure was denied at the last minute by metropolitan police — no such permissions are being granted for […]

Fighting for citizens’ rights: An interview with SOS Habitat

SOS Habitat is a Luanda-based civil society organisation that was founded by victims of housing demolitions in November 2002. The intention is to defend citizens’ land and housing rights by putting pressure on relevant entities to comply with Angolan and international law. SOS Habitat says its idea is to find a means of negotiating with […]

High-rise challenges to constructing a city’s identity

The Quality of Life 2011 survey, conducted biannually by the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO), was presented at University of the Witwatersrand on 23 July. The survey found overall quality of life increased slightly despite global economic recession, with government delivery as driver. But core challenges appeared to be of the intangible type that are less […]

Lagos and the terrorist threat

In today’s world of entrepreneurial cities, at least two things matter more than size when it comes to inspiring investor confidence – urban infrastructure and security. Lagos, Africa’s second-largest city and fastest-growing urban economy, is no exception. Yet despite considerable efforts to deliver physical upgrades, instill formality into local practices and depopulate suspected brewing stations […]

African architectures: Cazenga and urban redevelopment

What should a contemporary African city look like, and what kinds of practices should it cater for? This question lies at the heart of discussions about the redevelopment of Cazenga, one of Luanda’s most well-known musseque areas. While planners argue that they will improve the quality of life of Cazenga’s inhabitants, the residents are worried […]

Private development vs. the public interest

Across Cairo public service institutions are deteriorating due to severe corruption in the last two decades. The slow collapse of the state throughout the years, leading up to the uprising of last year, entailed the mismanagement of institutions such as schools and hospitals. The Bulaq General Hospital is a prime example of how private interests […]

Cultural renaissance on the streets of Accra

Ghana’s cultural policy is largely stuck in the past, with the state steadfastly centered on promoting historical tradition. Much of the public holds the same perspective, says Ato Annan, project officer of the Foundation for Contemporary Art Ghana (FCA), a non-profit organisation and network of Ghanaian artists. “Most Ghanaians are set in what they perceive […]

Food for thought: reforming governance through food

From roadside “Mama Put” canteens and street vendors to sprawling supermarkets and vast catering networks, a booming food culture in Lagos is transforming the city’s landscape and culture with an industrial intensity nearly unmatched by any other commercial venture in the local economy. Much of this can be attributed to the stable growth of Nigeria’s […]

“The real issue is not poverty, it is inequality”

Growing cynicism about politicians, concerns regarding corruption, massive levels of unemployment and ongoing “psychosocial challenges” hamper the basic quality of life in Gauteng, according to recent research findings. The Quality of Life 2011 survey, conducted biannually by the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO), was presented at the University of the Witwatersrand on 23 July. The survey […]

Snapshot of an ancient city

“Despite being very old, very big, very crowded and gloriously messy, it can’t quite claim to be the oldest, or biggest or grubbiest world metropolis.” This is how Max Rodenbeck, author of Cairo’s biography Cairo: The City Victorious (2000) describes his home city. “Cairo is not a city of superlatives,” he adds. However, it is […]