In Whose Place?

Confronting vestiges of the colonial landscape in Africa

20 May - 21 May 2021, Online Conference at the University of the Witwatersrand / History Workshop and the School of Architecture & Planning with the support of the European Union National Institutes for Culture

In whose place?

Confronting vestiges of the colonial landscape in Africa

Since independence, African countries throughout the continent have been confronted with the relics of colonial powers and, in the south, white minority regimes. Often neglected or damaged, these remains and environments are haunted by the lingering spectre of colonial history and architecture’s largely hidden yet pervasive racist presence. They are a sobering reminder of the everyday bureaucracy of colonialism and apartheid – and of how this history of subjugation and planning continues in part to shape life in postcolonial societies under global capitalism. What is being done with these remnants? Which should remain preserved and which altered or dismantled? Which do we choose to remember and which to forget?

By building and expanding a growing network of concerned and engaged practitioners around the topic, the event seeks to create and foster dialogue and collaboration between the academy and associated artistic, cultural and architectural projects. The historical infrastructure of everyday oppression and ecological devastation of colonialism and apartheid will be addressed through a number of interrelated, imagined and practical themes and panels. In examining buildings, sites and restorative ecologies, we are asking: In what ways do these retain or have jettisoned the formal structures of power and racism in which they had symbolically and functionally operated? In what ways can their lingering past be revealed, contested, reimagined or expunged? Even as the power of these edifices, landscapes and effigies has diminished, the stories embedded can be told, history interrogated, and redress and recuperation take place.