Taking the position of a speculative non-coloniality as a point of departure, They Who Dream of Waves: A Concise Guide to Afro-Asia is a hybrid essay-fiction that situates historical Afro-Asian affinities as a network of intense, intimate cultural and logistics exchanges that predates and transcends Western colonial impulses, and reimagines new possibilities of solidarities. By centring and problematising the notion of the African continent itself as a variegated site of diverse cosmologies and tensions, this piece traces both the cultural and historical genealogies of the African diaspora within Asia as a way of drawing into view how imaginaries of Africa have been created and maintained, and thus how new alliances can form without reliance on the contingencies of Western modes of being. In resonance with the idea of a radical disembodiment that bypasses colonial constructs of spatiality and temporality, They Who Dream of Waves posits that the creation of African spaces (or rather, spaces of Africanity) is as much an exercise in discursive creations as it is a vibrant, sensual act of worlding that embraces diversity but acknowledges the need for granularity so that a true, equitable polyphony of narratives may emerge.

Alfonse Chiu is a writer, artist, curator, and researcher working at the intersection of text, space, and the moving image. Their practice focuses on networked readings of the economies of geopolitical and socio-economic imaginaries as mediated by cartography and other modalities of spatial representation. They currently head SINdie, an editorial platform exploring Southeast Asian film culture(s), where they work on editorial direction, research, and special projects, and they are also the founder of the Centre for Urban Mythologies, a project-based research initiative interested in the (im)material tensions present within the urban contexts of the region.

Having read the project description of ‘Disembodied Territories’ I was immediately reminded of Katherine McKittrick’s reflection on Dionne Brand’s text ‘Land to Light On’. In the introductory chapter of ‘Demonic Grounds’ she reflects on how Brand’s work “not only refuses a comfortable belonging to nation, or country, or a local street, she alters them by demonstrating that geography, the material world, is infused with sensations and distinct ways of knowing” (McKittrick, 2006: ix). Based on this reflection, and the themes and questions that ‘Disembodied Territories’ seeks to navigate, I am interested in offering a visual and sonic, black feminist experimental cinematic exploration of relationships between black subjectivity and black, migratory geographies as a way to rethink, remap and visualise the oppositional geographies of urban Johannesburg.

Through an experimental black feminist cinematic grammar that centres intimacy and an ordinary set of affects, I am interested in exploring the formation of black femme geographies (in the context of migration) amongst the violent, masculinised constructions of urbanity. Loosely based on previous ethnographic research, current research, as well as my own experience of the city, I hope to turn to the possibilities of experimental cinematic practice as a means to unearth the intimate relationships that shape these physical and imaginative oppositional geographies. This practice also centres relationships between black cinematic temporality and sonic frequencies to shape a filmic practice that refuses chronological time and favours a tense-less impermanence, perpetual restlessness and fragmentation (Campt, 2017 & Nyong’o, 2018). Through these provocations, I aim to construct a black feminist reading of the cinematic and the geographic to consider a nuanced language for thinking about black women and femme bodies enacting resistance though the everyday, intimate sites outside of Western, hegemonic constructions of space.

Anna Sango is a photographer, spatial practitioner and film student based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her photographic work explores the complexities of the Johannesburg inner-city, capturing the liminal, still and in-flux nature of this environment. More broadly, her work explores every day, and personal, urban narratives of displacement, transnationalism and formations of subjectivity/being in relation to these processes. Black feminist and queer methodologies and practices are central to her research and creative practice. She is currently completing an MA in Film and Television, at the University of the Witwatersrand, with a research focus on black feminist geographies and experimental cinema.

My contribution focuses on the question of ruination as a keyword to make sense of the affective and material relationship to cityness in Egypt. I use ruination in the sense developed by Ann Laura Stoler. In Imperial Debris (2013) and Duress (2016), Stoler differentiates between ruins and ruination. Ruins, she argues, invite a privileged sense of reflection. Ruination, by contrast, emphasises by a critical positioning of the present within violent structures. In this sense, ruination is an ongoing process with multiple temporalities at work. This understanding, I find, empowers a critical engagement with processes of material and social undoing that divests from a fascination with ruins and questions the political complicity in processes of ruination instead (Stoler 2013, 9-11). This understanding intersects with Yael Navaro-Yashin’s use of the concept as a metaphor in studying abject space (2012, 170). Navaro-Yashin’s ethnographic use emphasises the sense of aftermath, ‘material remains or artefacts of destruction and violence’ (2012, 162) as well as ‘subjectivities and residual affects that linger, like a hangover, in the aftermath of violence’ (2012, 162). While these two theoretical inspirations intersect, I am primarily interested in the complex and non-linear temporalities that bear weight on the present and the future. The way I combine the question of materiality and affect is through a concept of geopoetics and in this piece I want to focus on a geopoetics of dust. I will use this to think about Ruination as promise and hope, and the leftover of ruination, dust or clutter, both circulating in Cairene spaces.

Aya Nassar is a researcher learning about Cairo. She is interested in storytelling, materiality, elemental geography and postcolonial cityness. She is an assistant professor of human geography in Durham University where she teaches political and urban geography as well as geographies of development.

My contribution pivots mainly around understanding space and creating possible methods of engaging with and configuring that space, in an attempt to understand and “humanize” the urban space in Cairo. I have been trying to experiment and expand the ways through which my experience of the city as a citizen overlaps and informs my artistic interests and concerns.

Since Cairo's long and tortured urbanization and modernization, has tended to serve automobiles as the dominant 'user', cycling, walking and other human-scale activities have turned to being acts of resistance/resilience to reclaiming the right to the city. A particular game of skipping hurdles with the ever-changing city. I began to play this game in navigating Cairo to create/rebuild human landscape as an attempt to confront the limitations and constraints of the city. I then translate the experience into my alternative maps of the space and build different connections within the city.

Azza Ezzat is a Cairo based visual artist. She is interested in urban observations and detecting human traces in the built environment. Between the formal governmental city and the informal community’s reactions, Ezzat searches for hidden cities that are built by impressions, Memories and perceptions. Through the work, a new city’s map is emerged from gained impressions.

When they
would put their feet at the back of my chair and kick me
it wasn’t them you talked to, it was me
When they
would make fun of my name
it wasn’t them you they talked to, it was me
When they
would mock me for the tone of my skin
it wasn’t them you talked to, it was me

*This story is part of the book titled “There, is the city... And, here are my hands”

Bothan Ahmed Botan is a twenty-nine years old writer who moved to the Netherlands at the age of two when his family fled the war in Somalia. His family was placed in the little town of Someren, which is virtually entirely white. He lost his father to cancer when he was in the fourth grade and was raised – along with three siblings – by his mother. Bothan studied Literature at Leiden University and currently works as a translator. He is currently working on a novel about his mother’s life.

The notion of the Black Brit is a confusing one. An identity that replicates the arbitrary boundaries drawn across Africa, shoving colonised bodies into a category contingent on the colonial core. The Black Brit is engaged in a constant battle to reassert itself as a legitimate identity. But is it legitimate? As Paul Gilroy (1993) notes, "the fundamental, time-worn assumption of homogenous and unchanging black communities […] proved to be a fantasy" (p.1). This is a category made up of pasts and presents fragmented by ethnic, historical and geographical location. This work disembodies the Black Brit by delegitimising it - where legitimacy is an appeal for recognition from the colonial masters who marked us and drew us to this land. I take the Black Brit's incoherence as its major resistive strength and seek out the sites of its discombobulation. Beginning with a conversation between myself and others about upbringing, day to day lives, passions and dislikes, our influences. Africa is extracted from its spatial location and contorted by these individuals in its conflict with Britain. In presenting this disjointed roundtable the viewer sees our similarities and differences constantly making and unmaking the Black Brit.

My name is Christiana Ajai-Thomas but most people refer to me as Roni. I am a Black Brit currently an MSc student in Sociology at the LSE. I am most interested in postcolonial, Black Marxist and queer theories, and my recent dissertation looks at how LGBT+ Nigerians experience and respond to policing in Nigeria.

My work examines ever-proliferating temporalized categories of criminalization in colonial and so-called “post-colonial” Lagos nightlife – “found at night”, “nightwalker”, “wandering”, “found without a lamp”, “unattached / unescorted women”, “without visible means of livelihood”, “loitering”, “wayward”, “unable to give an account of oneself”. From early colonial ordinances that forced Black African residents to hold torches when out at night, to the arrests of women for prostitution or loitering for being outside after dusk, to the closing of streets by informal neighborhood night guards, a plethora of apparatuses have sought to channel and circumscribe the uses of the night in Lagos and beyond, reconfiguring each night the geography of the city and demarcating this temporality as a site of suspicion and excess. Yet, I also excavate an insistent, insurgent refusal to vacate the night outdoors by Lagosians, despite a de facto criminalization of the night. Nighttime has often functioned as a privileged timespace of Black possibility, not as a site in which terror is absent or as the ground of some romance of resistance, but as a site in which terror is nowhere as inextricably linked to the specter or promise of an otherwise, a reprieve, an insistent life-making, and a disavowal of an order of things, which is also an order of times. If, as Fanon articulates in the Wretched of the Earth (1963), “the colonized subject frees himself night after night between nine in the evening and six in the morning”, how might we reckon with the logics which produce nighttime as a site of suspicion, excess but also potentially subversive world-making?

Chrystel Oloukoï is a writer, researcher and curator, broadly interested in time, temporality, policing and the afterlives of slavery and colonialism in Black continental and diasporic contexts. She is pursuing a PhD in African and African American Studies and Critical Media Practice at Harvard University. She is currently researching and producing a mixed media project on imaginations of the night in Lagos, as well as the afterlives of colonial technologies of temporal discipline.

We spoke to some of the most exciting scholars and practitioners about mapping, space, power, coloniality and the African continent/diaspora. 

Dr Claudia Gastrow is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and Development Studies at the University of Johannesburg and an Iso Lomso Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies. Her work studies the intersection of politics, urbanism and the built environment in southern and Lusophone Africa, with a specific focus on questions of urban planning, architecture, and place-making.. During her fellowship she will be a visiting scholar with the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative under the guidance of Professor Bruno Carvalho.

Mbembe writes “narrative about Africa is always pretext for a comment about something else, some other place, some other people. More precisely, Africa is the mediation that enables the West to accede to its own subconscious and give a public account of its subjectivity (Mbembe, On the Postcolony, 3).

In this sense Africa, though relegated to the position of the unthought, nevertheless remains vital to what Henri Lefebvre terms as the ‘mental space’ defining theoretical practice and knowledge of the world. There is an abyss between the mental sphere on one hand and the physical and social sphere’s on the other (Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 6). So what of the narratives of spatial agents in Africa? My project will therefore be a written piece that reflects on the abyss between mental space and their realities.

By talking through the production of my film Black Horizon, first screened at the 2019 Lagos Biennial made in collaboration with a group of young artists in Lagos, living in the wreckage of the entangled forces of geological and logistical processes, I intend on drawing attention to some of the practices of worlding of spatial agents present in West Africa’s physical and social spheres that exceed the Western imaginary.

Dele Adeyemo is an architect, creative director and critical urban theorist. His creative and research practices interrogate the underlying drivers of architectural development and urbanisation, locating them in racialising logistical processes that orchestrate planetary patterns of life.

Most recently Dele has presented at the 2nd Edition of the Lagos Biennial with Black Horizon (2019), and the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial with The Cosmogony of (Racial) Capitalism (2020). Dele is a PhD candidate in the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, and teaches an Architecture Design Studio with Ibiye Camp and Dámaso Randulfe at the Royal College of Art in London.

This project is motivated by an interest in understanding the movement of people through the dispersal of botanic species across continents. Diasporic journeys can be traced and retraced by the ways in which plants have travelled from Africa to the Americas, as seeds were carried by enslaved Africans to the colonies. In transporting seeds with them, Africans were able to bring local knowledges with them to the colonies, resisting attempts by European slavers to strip the memory of their homelands from them while simultanenously shaping the future agricultural landscape of the Americas. 

This project will examine the legacy that  botanic species have imprinted on the Americas through collage, mapping their journeys through words and images. This is done as a way of challenging colonial notions of land and property ownership in the Caribbean, relying instead on embodied forms of knowledge and oral history as a way of understanding space.

Ella den Elzen is an architectural designer and researcher. Working predominantly in modes of architectural representation such as drawing and model making, she explores the role of architecture in relation to justice. Her research examines topics around spaces of incarceration, migration, and settler-colonial infrastructures.

If landscape is a way of seeing that we learn, I see a Somaliland that is inextricably linked with England. I learned to make Xawaash in England, and yet it is also a reminder of a home, or at least of a landscape that is not English. When we as a family go for walks in the beautiful English countryside around Bristol, I always take a flask of shaah or chai. I grew up drinking shaah, the tea my mother made for guests. My boys now associate country walks with shaah as does my English husband; it is the only time I make it. I think there is something beautiful in this, a Somali trace of spiced tea in the rural English landscape. T.S. Eliot articulates the complexities of this migration well: The migrations of modern times […] have transplanted themselves according to some social, religious, economic or political determination or some peculiar mixture of these. There has therefore been something in the re-movements analogous in nature to religious schism. The people have taken with them only a part of the total culture […] The culture which develops on the new soil must therefore be bafflingly alike and different from the parent culture. Wherever people migrate, there will always be gaps in the availability of foodstuffs, some seemingly essential items that cannot be transported or do not grow well in the new environment. For my mother, who grew up as a goat herder on the Ethiopian/Somali border, fresh camel milk has a strong association with the Somali landscape; since leaving Somaliland, this camel milk has become, for her, imbued with mystical powers. Camels are so important to sustaining Somali nomads that there are forty-six different words for camel. My mother firmly believes fresh camel milk cures all sorts of ailments, and she laments its loss. The loss is far greater than just camel milk: it is a loss of home, a loss so keenly felt that my mother (along with a generation of her peers) took up a recipe for camel milk, consisting of the following unlikely but available ingredients: a dash of 7-Up, natural yoghurt, salt, and water. Imagine our excitement each Ramadan when she brought out the ‘camel milk’. For children of the African diaspora this idea of home, of this ‘parent culture’, is entwined with food.

Fozia Ismail, scholar, cook and founder of Arawelo Eats, a platform for exploring politics, identity and colonialism through East African food. She has worked with a range of cultural institutions on exploring food and empire including London School of Economics, Museum of London, Serpentine Gallery, Tate Modern, National Trust, Courtauld, Bristol Old Vic, Battersea Arts Centre, Watershed and Arnolfini.

Her work has been published by Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery and Vittles.

She has been featured on Observer Food Magazine, BBC Radio 4 Food Programme, Oxford Symposium on Food &; Cookery Ox Tales podcast, Food 52,London Eater, Vice Munchies, Vittles & Bristol 24/7.

When not critically eating her way through life’s messiness she can be found plotting with her sisters in arms and fellow Pervasive Media Residents Ayan Cilmi and Asmaa Jama as part of dhaqan collective, a Somali feminist art collective in Bristol.

As a Black/African feminist geographer who is interested in cities, Afro-futurism and Black futurity, I spend a lot of my time thinking about what African cities can look like. Specifically, I challenge urban Afropolitan Imagineering projects that engage with familiar orientations (Ahmed 2006) of Euro-patriarchal capitalism. As such, I get excited when I see things like the market scenery in the movie Black Panther and some of Architect Olalekan Jeyifuous’s work. These are examples that disinherit the familiarity of Eurocentric geographic determinism – because they do not look like the “urban” that is imagined/promoted by development.I am really interested in contributing to disembodied territories because when I read the call, it brought to mind my experience of a talk where I showed pictures of Jeyifuous’s work to practically a sea of white faces. There is one particular look of disgust that remains indelible in my mind. Many were mostly aghast that I called the drawings beautiful. I was focused on the possibility of an urban future, one that did not normalize “overdevelopment, accumulation, and … [consumption] as identifiable–seeable locales of emancipation,” (McKittrick 2011:950). They probably wanted to see a particular aesthetic. I denied them this. My proposed contribution will take the form of story-telling, real and imagined, that flirts with the idea of an otherwise African urban future.

Grace Adeniyi-Ogunyankin is an Assistant Professor at Queen's University with the Departments of Geography and Planning and Gender Studies. She is a feminist scholar who is interested in African urban futures and Black futurity. Her current research involves a comparative study of the impact of contemporary urban transformations on African youth identity, labour practices, psychosocial well-being and future orientation. She also has a research focus on popular culture, both on the continent and in the diaspora, that explores the issues of subjectivity and belonging and the use of Afrofuturism and Afropolitan Imagineering in geographic projects that address the politics of difference.

Slavery in the Cape Colony was officially the central form of social, cultural and economic organization from 1658 – 1834, and vital to the production of many of the key architectural sites from this period. In 1834, slavery was replaced by a system of indentured labour, a continuation of the slave system in all but name. While slavery and associated forms of racialized forced labour are largely represented as mild in early architectural histories of southern Africa, if present at all, there are moments when tracings, slippages and holes in the historical narratives point to stores of revolt, violence, and precarious yet peripheral care. The manor house of Waterhof, for instance, is described by architectural historian Dorothea Fairbridge (1922) as follows: “Waterhof is a place wherein to see visions and dream dreams. Legend says that you may hear the pattering footsteps of the mutinous slaves wherever you care to listen for them.” I am intrigued by these “footsteps”, and those who “care to listen for them”; and beyond the specific histories of this particular house, how similar stories emerge of various similar spaces, and the wider geographies where slaves were captured from, and the places where refuge was sought. This proposal asks how architectural history might contend with these ghost stories and hauntings. Rather than understanding the inability to know ‘fully’ as disabling, I am interested in thinking through the fictions of history, to draw on Gayatri Spivak, as a means to push back against epistemic violence of disciplinary constraints, and begin to re-map these architectures.

Huda Tayob is a lecturer at the University of Cape Town. She is an architect and architectural historian. Her research focuses on migrant, minor and subaltern architectures, southern epistemologies and archival silences. She received an RIBA President Award for Research Commendation for her PhD, was the 2019 recipient of the SAH Scott Opler award for Emerging Scholars and is currently a Canadian Centre for Architecture Mellon Fellow on the project Centring Africa. She is co-curator of the open access curriculum racespacearchitecture.org and the digital podcast series and exhibition Archive of Forgetfulness (Archiveofforgetfulness.com).

Data: The New Black Gold emerged out of a longer line of research that examines the data economy in West Africa. Tracing the history of oil production in Nigeria revealed the complex relationship between exploitation, wealth and environment. I explored how multinational corporations were taking land and taking control of public data. As a reaction to the research I began creating rudimentary scanning devices that could allow the public to collect and control their own data. While developing scans of popular markets in Lagos I realised that there was a whole other narrative emerging within the project. There was a glitch in the quality of scans, due to the voids in the data collected. It became evident that scanning softwares have embedded visual biases in contrasting spaces.When scanning Balogun Market in Lagos —the cars, okada’s, keke’s, and stalls— appear glitched. This highlights tensions between the landscape and the technology. While Data: the New Black Gold began as a speculative project, it opens up a lot of questions on Eurocentric mapping ideologies and western cartographic tools. I would like to contribute to Disembodied Territories a Virtual Reality space. This will be an immersive walk-through extension of the original film.

Ibiye Camp is a multidisciplinary artist. Her work engages with technology and materials within the African Diaspora. She utilises architectural tools to create 3D models, sound, video, and AR to highlight the biases and conflicts within technology. Ibiye Camp holds an MA in Architecture from the Royal College of Art, and BA (Hons) in Fine Art, from the University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins. Ibiye is currently a tutor at the RCA in the School of Architecture. She tutors in Media Studies and the Architecture Design Studio titled Demonic Shores with Dele Adeyemo and Dámaso Randulfe.

What are you? Often grappling with my identity, coming from a niche that most Africans and Arabs alike are unfamiliar with, I constantly struggle with defining my identity. Am I African, am I Yemeni, am I neither, am I both? It is offensive that I am forced to define my identity per Western constructions of space. Why does my African identity end at the Red Sea? Why do maps of Africa not include African diasporas? We are confined to recognizable spaces to fit ideologies permeated by Western ways of knowing, of categorizing the particulars of varying cultures. I cannot, therefore, be easily confined to pre-determined conventions of what an area/region should consist of and its perceived cultural characteristics. However, the situation is more complicated than the desire for African inclusion. Ethiopia, like Egypt, often considers itself non-African; the result of perceived elitism imposed via colonial racism and reinforced by Orthodox Christianity. The problem is ancient, when “Ethiopia” was more generally north of its current capital, especially during the time of what preceded and shaped the Aksumite empire. Any place in Africa associated with the word “empire”, per archaeology, is never considered an “African empire”, because Africa doesn’t have empires and therefore Saba and Aksum can’t be African. Western modes of place categorization do not fit into this complicated scheme and only further convolute my identity. The reality is that I am African wherever I am, not where Western borders of ideological space impose themselves. My essay will examine how this complicated history can't be defined per the Western understanding of space-time, as well as how my particular identity can be understood as a case study for demonstrating the limitations of the Western episteme in Northeast Africa/Yemen/South Arabia.

Iman Jamal Nagy is a PhD student at UCLA studying Northeast African Archaeology. She focuses on reintegrating indigenous knowledge systems and perspectives into mainstream heritage studies, bridging cultural connections from Egypt to the Horn of Africa.

As Zimbabweans navigate cycles of hyper-inflation, emergent technologies afford new ways to self-sustain and make place, while negotiating precarity and “other side of the border” opportunities. Attentive to the precarity of Black cross-border mobility, this project foregrounds how mobile phone technologies (re)configure the ways people relate to each other, move through space (including the space of the Zimbabwean diaspora) and challenge pre-existing state controlled economic institutions. I focus on cross-border running— a process and set of infrastructures wherein members of a new class of Zimbabwean entrepreneurs called runners are sourced online via Facebook or WhatsApp to procure goods from grocery and household stores in South Africa that cannot be sourced locally, on a commission basis for customers in Zimbabwe. I track how these goods are transported illicitly over the border through a network of informal relationships between runners, bus drivers and border officials and which (in)equalities are made visible in the spaces across which they operate. In an essay that centers ethnographic fragments from my PhD research, I will foreground questions of mobility across physical and social (classed) spaces with a special emphasis on runners’ movements across the Zimbabwe-South Africa border.

Her research focuses broadly on how people living in precarious urban contexts mediate daily life and associated (im)mobilities across social and physical space. Specifically, Jacquelin is concerned with the provisional modalities that Zimbabweans use to navigate daily political and economic precarities and what those navigations reveal about the spatial production of the Zimbabwean economy and Zimbabweans’ relationalities with each other across racial and social boundaries.

Jacquelin’s public scholarship and other writings have appeared on Africa is a Country, Stranger’s Guide, and Mobilisation Lab. She has also commentated on Zimbabwean politics on Al Jazeera’s The Stream, This is Hell Radio, and Cape Talk Radio.

I have this running joke with friends that I tell time and know what day of the week it is by staring at my indoor laundry hanger. I count pairs of socks to know if it's Tuesday or Thursday. Watch garments slowly disappearing like memories that over the years I have trapped in a scarf or a shirt or spritz of perfume. I tell them that this fragile and sturdy apparatus that folds up against a wall or behind a door, that carries the weight and water of my memories, standing for hours on end patiently for the sun to smile through my balcony reminds me of the collective reality of immigrants everywhere surviving in exile and abroad....

*This story is part of the book titled “There, is the city... And, here are my hands”

k. eltinaé is a Sudanese poet of Nubian descent, raised internationally as a third culture kid. His work has been translated into Arabic, Greek, Farsi and Spanish and has appeared in World Literature Today, The Ordinary Chaos of Being Human: Many Muslim Worlds (Penguin), The African American Review, About Place Journal, Muftah, among others. He is the first place poetry winner of Muftah’s Creative Writing Competition At Home in the World, the winner of The 2019 Beverly Prize for International Literature (Eyewear Publishing) for his debut collection The Moral Judgement of Butterflies (Black Spring Press, London) and is also the winner of the Memorial Reza Abdoh Poetry Prize 2021 from Tofu Ink Press and the co-winner of the 2019 Dignity Not Detention Prize from Poetry International. He is also the author of a children's book, which explores Nubian identity and language titled Sisters of the Water forthcoming from Taras Press, London in 2022. He currently resides in Granada, Spain.

How might the everyday lived experiences of Black women reimagine approaches to public policy that continue to perpetuate violence as normative development, whilst on-the-ground understandings and imaginaries of safety constantly shift? How might we recognise and centre this dynamic characteristic of context as a means of refiguring meaning and nuance into the development of safe spaces? This proposal extends on the research surrounding the platform ‘public aGender’ which the author created as a digital ethnographic approach to better understanding the spatial perspectives of Black women Gender-based survivors in Cape Town. Identifying an ethical gap in fieldwork processes, the platform begs spatial practice to listen to context and mould its processes according to its pre-existing rules, pace and rituals. Employing collage as a means of visualising challenges, ideas and fantasies around safety; the platform situates itself as both conduit and vessel. As a tapestry of narratives interwoven and viewed collectively, it acts as a conduit for storytellers to share their experiences and understandings of the city. As an ongoing and open repository, it acts as a vessel holding the fluidity of everyday life. This proposal reflects on public aGender as an evolving case study for subverting single tick-box understandings of safety and violence that tend to be overlooked at public policy level, and consequently hinder the development and fruition of safe spaces or counterpublics (Fraser, 1990) that could subvert the oppressive nature of infrastructure in South Africa to become one that departs from mutual understandings of joy.

Khensani is an architectural researcher and designer from Johannesburg. She centres practicing intersectionality through research and design. Her view of intersectionality questions and imagines how efficiency and narratives of the built environment can be more sustainable through ethically social and ecological practices. She is the founder of Matri-Archi(tecture), a collective based between South Africa and Switzerland that aims at empowering African women as a network dedicated to African spatial education. Her recent research at the University of Cambridge focused on typologies of safe space with aims at reducing Gender-based violence in cities. Khensani finds educational value in spatial, written and auditory explorations centring storytelling as critical to spatial practice. She researches and teaches at the chair of Affective Architectures at the ETH Zürich in Switzerland. She hosts a podcast called KONTEXT and serves as an editorial contributor at the Architectural Review in London. She is based between South Africa and Switzerland.

In my essay exploring the possibilities of curating a counter-archive that centers Black and Indigenous women in the re-telling of Canada’s history as a settler-colonial nation, I end with an acknowledgment that “to curate as a Black Canadian working with Black and Indigenous artists is different from curating as an Igbo woman alongside Inuk and Plains Cree artists.” As my contribution to Disembodied Territories, I would like to take this line of thinking further and write a speculative text (most likely a conversation with one of the artists from the exhibition, an Inuk woman who has become a dear friend) that re-imagines and invents what the latter experience would have been like. Rather than Wynter’s triadic model of European-Negro-Indian – and later Fred Wilderson’s Red, White and Black – this piece (whatever shape it ends up taking) would explore the possibilities of a dyadic Negro-Indian, or Red-Black, or African-Native or Igbo-Inuk (as an example), in ways that de-center and de-stabilize not only our understandings of how we have come (and can come) to be together, but also of place, of migration, of relation. Aiming to step outside of the master’s house – if even for a moment, if only for a glimpse—the piece will tell the story of an encounter between an Igbo and Inuk woman that we were never given the opportunity to experience.

Kosisochukwu Nnebe is a Nigerian-Canadian visual artist and curator. Using phenomenology as a methodology, Nnebe’s practice makes use of hesitation as a generative form of affect that opens the viewer and the artist herself up to new forms of understanding. Touching on themes such as the process of racialization, diasporic experience, and epistemic violence and restitution, her work takes her lived experience as a starting point for engaging viewers on issues both personal and structural in ways that bring awareness to their own imbrication and complicity. Opacity (that which is undecipherable, hidden) and transparency (that which is legible, hypervisible) are featured intermittently in works that at times obfuscate and at other times transform to reveal a glimpse into a new way of seeing and being that has yet to be understood – even by the artist herself. Nnebe’s work has been exhibited at AXENEO7, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Place des Arts, the Art Gallery of Guelph, the Nia Centre, Studio Sixty Six, Z-Art Space, Station 16, and the Mohr Gallery in Mountain View, California. She has given presentations on her artistic practice and research at universities across Quebec, including Laval, McGill and Concordia, and has facilitated workshops at the National Gallery of Canada, the Ottawa Art Gallery, and Redwood City High School in California. She is currently based in Ottawa

I work from the realm of dreams. My work is primarily ancestral instruction I am permitted to translate into the language of my experiences. I meet my ancestors in my dreams and they show me an expansive universe, where the past, present, and future happen all at once, because time is not linear and forever is now. In my dreams, I collaborate with my people to build new worlds and reclaim dignity. ULI KWINA would be a deeply personal 3-6 piece surrealist photographic series that intimately explores my dreams and collaborative process with the divine, incorporating symbolism from Ngonde ontology and dream interpretations. When I consider Disembodied Territories, I immediately think of my dreamscape. It is the meeting place for both the dead and the living, spirit and flesh. A place that is not bound by the laws of physics or materiality. Where once lost or destroyed or stolen places, people, artefacts, or stories can return anew, restored by time. The tangible body transforms into both a vessel and map for the intangible. The dreamscape is a shapeshifting meeting place, one both mind and spirit can reconfigure at will.

kyle malanda (b. 1994) is a Malawian photographer and filmmaker whose work explores the intersections of racial & ethnic identity, queerness, and indigenous spirituality in an increasingly globalised digital world. Her works seek to interpret Black history into her ideals for the present and imaginations for Black futures. She regularly incorporates fashion design, set design, and augmented reality into her visual works.Using her multi-cultural and transcontinental experiences as a queer Black woman, kyle's work is an autobiographical reflection of both society and the self/ves. She is based in Lilongwe but is often found elsewhere.

My doctoral research explores the visual narratives of authenticity invested in and mobilised through the shweshwe textile in contemporary South Africa. Shweshwe is a resist-dyed cotton fabric that is industrially manufactured in Zwelitsha township in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The textile is increasingly understood as an indigenous textile, principally associated with black women’s traditional rite of passage into marriage although with an ever-widening range of uses to mark a distinctly afrocentric South African sartorial aesthetic. However, for much of the 19th century and well into the first half of the 20th century, what we now call shweshwe was a copywritten calico blueprint produced in Lancashire, England, by the Calico Printers Association. Printed onto calicos made from American cotton, by the early 20th century, the British sought to establish cotton mills in various parts of the British Empire to reduce Lancashire’s reliance on American cottons. However, it is important to note that in the mid-19th century, virtually all the blue-print cottons that arrived in the Cape of Good Hope (modern day Cape Town) arrived with German missionaries who required black converts to acquire European dress as one of the key markers of the their Christianisation (read civilisation).

Lebogang Mokwena is currently a Prize Fellow and PhD candidate in the Sociology Department at the New School for Social Research, New York. Her scholarly interests lie at the nexus of cultural, historical, and global sociology, attending to the production, consumption, and circulation threads of the textile. Specifically, her research explores the authenticating power of the isishweshwe textile  in the context of post-apartheid South Africa. Her contribution to the Disembodied Territories initiative is a visual meditation that grapples with the long history, global breadth, and intimacy of a textile that is most readily associated with South and Southern Africa.

We spoke to some of the most exciting scholars and practitioners about mapping, space, power, coloniality and the African continent/diaspora. 

Léopold Lambert is the editor-in-chief of The Funambulist. He is a trained architect, as well as the author of three books that examine the inherent violence of architecture on bodies, and its political instrumentalization at various scales and in various geographical contexts. He is the author of Weaponized Architecture:The Impossibility of Innocence (dpr-barcelona, 2012), Topie Impitoyable: The Corporeal Politics of the Cloth, the Wall, and the Street (punctum, 2016) and Politics of Bulldozer: The Palestinian Ruin as an Israeli Project (B2, 2016). His new book is called States of Emergency: A Spatial History of the French Colonial Continuum (Premiers Matins de Novembre, 2021).

We spoke to some of the most exciting scholars and practitioners about mapping, space, power, coloniality and the African continent/diaspora. 

Marc Miller has degrees in Art History, Fine Arts, Architecture, and Landscape Architecture. His research focuses on representations of landscape in popular culture, synthesizing these lessons learned in culture, politics, making, craft, and scale. At the core of all of this research is the idea that landscape architectural ideation and imagery must shift to look towards problem-solving for the future instead of repeating design processes from the past to remain relevant. The goal is to teach students how to be critical of the past and responsive to their futures using speculative thinking and design fiction.

To that end, Miller explores contemporary forms of media to communicate design problems to broad audiences. He focuses primarily on television and similar serial-based narratives. He is also interested in other mediums that enable worldbuilding to construct conversations and ideas about future landscapes.

I used to think that if anything ever happened to me, the first people the Police would speak to would be the minibus taxi drivers on the Claremont-Cape Town route, which I took every day as student to go to University in Rondebosch. They would have been the first and last to see me. That’s the kind of thought that comes to mind when you are a foreign young woman, on your own, travelling daily to and fro in a strange city known as «rape town», in a world whose languages you have yet to master. Yes, I am African, but this is not the Africa I know. For the Disembodied Territories call, I propose to write a short essay (800-1,000 words) excerpted above: a meditation on navigating an African city I knew little about, as a young university student in a country other than my own. In the beginning, I didn’t know how to read a post-apartheid city such as Cape Town, and so I navigated the city on the basis of trust. I later realised that I was so evidently foreign, that the naiveté must have protected me. I looked “coloured”, but my Mozambican accent gave me away. I looked at people in the eyes when others would have averted the gaze and/or crossed over to the other side of the street. Nevertheless, being a young woman in a city infamous for high rape statistics, safety was a concern and would later determine how I mapped the city: ensuring I had witnesses.

Maria Gabriela Carrilho Aragão was born, lives and works in Maputo. She holds a degree in Architecture from the University of Cape Town, where she was also a Tutor and External Examiner. She is a practicing architect since 2007 and an occasional writer, visual artist andindependent curator, using her skills to help others translate and actualise their own creative visions. In her artistic production, she uses diverse materials, with a preference for collage and drawing with ink on paper, as in her recent illustration series, Tribute to Calvino: TheInvisible Cities (ongoing). She has published illustrations, essays and translations, namely Travessia: Impressões de Viagem / Field Notes (essay, for The Goethe Institut-Johannesburg, The Archive of Forgetfulness, 2021), Maqueleva: Memento Vivere (curatorship, for Fundação Fernando Leite Couto, 2020), Bits of Maputo - Entre Acácias (essays, for Ricardo Pinto Jorge, 2017), How the Attacks Were Planned (illustration, forChimurenga Magazine 16: The Chronic, 2011), among others.

Maintenance has a central role in my worldview. I owe that to my parents. In this self-reflective essay, I describe how maintenance of human and technical relationships is part of my parents’ way of being, an ethos that I believe, is truly African. Education, however, is not a mere transmission of information, values and practices. Accordingly, in revisiting my memories I conceptualise how I have been transforming such values. For me, maintenance is a spectrum of practices that aim at keeping the value of relationships by means of a constant conversation, whether relationships are with people or with objects, individual or collective.“Maintenance: an African philosophy of design” is about the role of caring regarding everyday things; everyday things that are often overlooked in modern society, but that are crucial for making life functional, sometimes even more appreciated.

*This story is part of the book titled “There, is the city... And, here are my hands”

Mário Barros is an Industrial Designer graduate and a PhD in Design, both from the University of Lisbon in Portugal. He has taught and researched in Portugal and Vietnam, prior to working in Denmark.His research addresses design problems taking interconnections and evolution over time as cornerstones of reasoning. Product morphology is the main research interest and it unfolds as methods for generative design amenable for computation and the assessment of existing designs. In this respect, the specific focus is the examination of the evolution of design languages and the study of product architecture to enable repairability.

In the summer of 2020 a petition circulated by the far-right group ‘Britain First’, requested signatures in support of the removal of the statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square. It was widely shared by people like Kim Kendall, a senior lawyer for the U.K. government’s Crown Prosecution Service. The letter situated the request on the premise set up by the Black Lives Matter protests, who over the summer of 2020 had called for the removal of statues of controversial historical figures who were complicit in practices of slavery and racial subjugation. It took to recognise the power projected by monumental figures of history through their figuration within the public space of the city. Seeking to cast Mandela’s bronze cast to the ground, the petition argued that such an act was necessary for him to be, ‘torn down and cast into the dustbin of history’, due to his being ‘a communist and terrorist mass murderer’.

*This story is part of the book titled “There, is the city... And, here are my hands”

Moad Musbahi is an artist and curator whose work investigates migration as a method for cultural production and political expression, focusing on the social practices and forms of knowledge that movement engenders. He is co-directing the year-long roaming programme Taught to Travel with the Harun Farocki Institut across Alexandria, Beirut, Berlin, Dakar and Tunis. He is a recipient of the Sharjah Art Foundation Production Programme grant (2020); the Goethe Institut’s Visual Arts Project Fund (2021); and the EU’s ‘All-Around Culture’ research grant (2022). His writing has featured in The White Review (2021), Kayfa-Ta (2020) and AA Files (2019), and has been presented at Projects Arts Centre, Dublin (2021), Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai (2020) and Beirut Art Center, Beirut (2019). Previously, he worked with the DLX Design Lab at the University of Tokyo; as a researcher at the Royal College of Art’s School of Architecture, London; and has been a recent resident at Singapore Art Museum, Singapore (2022).

I offer this text as an activity of sharing.

                  I offer this text as a wilful motion of spiralling through incompleteness against mastery.i

I insist upon my right to be multiple

I insist upon my right to be multiple

Even more so, I insist upon

The recognition of my multiplicity


I can also, also, also, also, and, and, and, and

*This story is part of the book titled “There, is the city... And, here are my hands”

Nasra Abdullahi is a designer, writer and editor based in London. She is currently a junior writer at Wallpaper* magazine, the 2021 guest editor of The Avery Review and a member of the second cohort of New Architecture Writers. A student at the Bartlett School of Architecture, she is interested in ways we can seek equitable futures through material cultures away from projected architectural and urban desires. Seeking a multiplicity in spatial practice, she is interested in what modern architectural technology can look like when innovated and reappropriated through and in relation to various knowledge systems. Currently, her work is centred around exploring the possibilities of using analytical tools from black and indigenous radical traditions to inform us about design and technological practice.

Against the backdrop of the bordered and extractive histories and presence of European colonialism, enslavement, and genocide, sitting in a prison in the 1970s Huey P Newton – Black Panther co-founder and errant child of African diaspora – imagined the world otherwise. Newton’s theory of ‘intercommunalism’, as fleshed out in his writings and speeches, dislodged the then popular notion that anti-colonial nationalism was the antidote to Euro-American empire, but at the same time managed to question the legitimacy of a borderless world in which racial capitalism was the only currency. Drawing on his thought, this piece explores the promise of a rupture from Eurocentric conceptions of time and space.Specifically, by thinking with and through Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s postulation that “freedom is a place”, the piece asks how ‘abolition’ can help complicate and disrupt dominant understandings of boundaries and European territoriality. It posits a different way of ‘place-making’ one in which ‘Africa’ does not stand as synecdoche for ‘oppressed’.

Nivi Manchanda is Senior Lecturer in International Politics at Queen Mary University of London. She's interested in the politics of race and colonialism, and questions of borders, space, and abolition. She's the author of Imagining Afghanistan: the History and Politics of Imperial Knowledge (Cambridge University Press, 2020) and co-editor of Race and Racism in International Relations: Confronting the Global Colour Line (Routledge, 2015).

We will explore the complexities of making place amidst catastrophe and/or devastation. Central to our exploratory investigation is a focus on what building means in the context of space-making practices. Through this poetic experimentation we will tease out what building other futures—and here we understand building in an expansive sense—might look and feel like. Some of the questions we will explore are: how has black life in the diaspora envisioned another mapping of the world that reckons with the long durée of extractive and toxic colonialism—whose logics have historically and presently relegated black life to particular times and spaces of devastation? In what ways have Africans both on the Continent and in the Diaspora responded to ruptures, wounds, and gaps? What does it mean for us to make life happen in the wake of and/or amidst (neo-)colonial practices of place annihilation? How does one narrate place-making in spaces that have been marked as “uninhabitable”? What does maintaining a conceptual separation between space and place enable when the material of building still echoes expansive colonial logic?

Ola Hassanain trained her focus on the subtle politics of space—namely, how built spaces react to and reinforce violence from state entities, which in turn, creates a built environment that reflects, responds to, regulates the lives of those who inhabit it. Her most recent work explores an idea of “space as discourse,” an expanded notion of space that encompasses political and environmental questions. Her work tries to develop a spatial vocabulary that follows how ruptures presented by 'political events', make it possible to aspire to new kind of ecologies. Ola's development of critical spatial practice is party informed by her post-academic training which includes an ongoing Ph.D. in Practice candidacy at the Academy of Fine Art, a BAK fellowship 2017-2018, and teaching in HKU University of the Arts Utrecht and Sandberg Institute amongst others.

Ever since I decided to focus on knowledges and experiences of peoples of African descent to make sense of the world (i.e. a non-exhaustive understanding of epistemic Blackness), I keep on thinking about how much time we could have saved. In our sense-making. In our sense-making-for-change at the service of the will-to-life (Dussel, 2008).“You already know enough”, writes Lindqvist in Exterminate All the Brutes ([1992] 2007, p.2). “So do I. It is not knowledge we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and to draw conclusions.”In my contribution I seek to both complicate and walk with this provocation-invitation. Complicate by acknowledging that we are engaging in sense-making on the ruins of epistemicide, of Black epistemes in particular; walk-with, by acknowledging that the knowledges are nevertheless there, both very present and hidden in plain sight. I offer curated narratives, building on my father’s life stories as a Rwandan-in/after-exile as well as autobiographical examples of my everyday: traveling/researching/teaching/reporting-while-Black. I aim to engage what Ndlovu-Gatsheni and wa Thiong’o have conceptualised the colonial and decolonisation to be: dis-memberment and re-mebering respectively and think through the implications for knowledge-making at the service of the will-to-life from ‘disembodied African’ loci of enunciation.

Olivia Umurerwa Rutazibwa (1979) Is a Belgian/Rwandan International Relations scholar of epistemic Blackness and a

We went to Tiznit – a historical center of North African jewellery making – looking for the ‘cloisonné’ enamel technique, found only in specific and unrelated regions of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. We took Ahmed Bouanani’s drawings of traditional jewellery with us. He made them in the 1960s, as a record of something doomed to disappear. Today around Tiznit the craftsmen’s villages are indeed empty. Many techniques are forgotten. Jewellery is losing its place in social ritual, becoming a merely commercial sector. But keen eyes and dextrous hands remain, as does the habit of melting down old pieces to create new ones. Neither the makers nor the users of these objects fetishize them. They leave authenticity to the anthropologists. Artisans are not the keepers of a temple, but the heirs of skills they constantly revitalize. Inspired by this, we forsook the melancholy search and turned to invention instead. If jewellery is a language, with a syntax of materials, forms and techniques, we could perhaps – with the help of a master craftsman – write new sentences. Create our own authentically false pieces. Make speculative fiction out of the extant scraps of a dying heritage.

Omar Berrada is a writer and curator, and the director of Dar al-Ma’mûn, a library and artists residency in Marrakech. His work focuses on the politics of translation and intergenerational transmission. He is the author of the poetry collection Clonal Hum (2020), and the editor or co- editor of several books, including Album – Cinémathèque de Tanger, a multilingual volume about film in Tangier and Tangier on film (2012), The Africans, a book on migration and racial politics in Morocco (2016), and Ahmed Bouanani’s posthumous history of Moroccan cinema, La Septième Porte (2020). Currently living in New York, he teaches at The Cooper Union where he co-organizes the IDS Lecture Series.

M’barek Bouhchichi is a visual artist who uses a variety of media – painting, drawing, sculpture, installation. His work moves from individual discourse to broader social, poetic and historical systems, through a visual language grounded in exploring the limits between inner thoughts and their vocalization. His recent work focuses on the history of Black Amazigh people in southern Morocco. By shedding light on this community’s practices, Bouhchichi symbolically unsettles established divisions of space and labor. His work has recently been exhibited at Dak’art (Dakar), Savvy Contemporary (Berlin), Kulte Gallery (Rabat), Mucem (Marseille), MACAAL (Marrakech), Centre Pompidou (Paris), among others. He lives and works in Tahanaout, Morocco.

We spoke to some of the most exciting scholars and practitioners about mapping, space, power, coloniality and the African continent/diaspora. 

Ozayr Saloojee is an Associate Professor at Carleton’s Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism in Ottawa. Beyond his personal research and teaching, Saloojee is creating new platforms for students to engage in critically important studio work surrounding equity, justice, contested territories, radical acts of joy Saloojee is also a co-director of the Carleton Urban Research Lab and cross-appointed faculty at the university’s Institute for African Studies. Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, he has taught in Canada, Europe, and the US. He completed his B.Arch. and post-professional M.Arch. (Theory and Culture), at Carleton University and completed his doctoral work at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.

‘Water No Get Enemy: Counter-Cartographies of Diaspora’ aims to develop a model of resistance to neo-colonial practices of crude oil extraction and ecocide in the Niger Delta. By learning from indigenous epistemologies archived in Nigerian masquerade, the project proposes a new masquerade: a method of cartography that critiques harmful extractive practices by bringing multiple diasporic sites into dialogue through performance. ‘Water No Get Enemy’ proposes an innovative method of analysing resource relations between extractors and sites of extraction. This is a call to rethink our relationship to resource use, the role that previous extractive architectural technologies have played in this space and the potential of a renewed relationship to indigenous knowledge as a serious form of spatial practice.I intend to develop this project further with Disembodied Territories, by advancing the short film I have already created into a more detailed ethnographic study. I will go into more depth regarding the colonial cartography that has abstracted the land for the purposes of extraction. In addition to further exploring the indigenous cartographic practice of Kalabari masquerades that resists this extraction, through performance, costume and conversation which are spatial technologies of analysis, projection and recreation.

Remi Kuforiji is a spatial practitioner and researcher based in East London. He completed the BA Architecture course at the University of Westminster, before working at HawkinsBrown. Recently graduating from the MA Architecture course at the Royal College of Art, his research focuses on the intersections between the politics of race, coloniality, cartography, and performance. His thesis project ‘Water No Get Enemy’ positions masquerade as a method of cartography to critique the neo-colonial extraction of the Niger Delta’s resources. Currently, Remi is working with Cooking Sections, a London based duo examining the systems that organise the world through food.

This essay describes the death of a woman in a neighborhood of urban renewal in Ethiopia’s capital city. Rahel left Addis Ababa in 2006 as a twenty-year-old young woman to work as an undocumented domestic migrant laborer in Beirut. After she had a stroke, she became paralyzed and died soon after in 2016. Her attempts of trying to return when she fell ill failed. Even once dead, her body was not easily brought back home. Stuck in Beirut because of faulty documentation, and then at customs in Addis Ababa, her body began to decompose.

In describing how the neighborhood organized the funeral and mourned not only the death of these individuals, but the vanishing of the neighborhood, I highlight the disposability that gendered and racialized bodies are often subjected to. Treated as surplus, the push and refusal to disappear becomes increasingly definitional of their circulation.

Sabine Mohamed is currently a “Bridge to the Faculty” Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Heidelberg (2021). Her research has been supported by the Max Planck Society, the Heidelberg Graduate Academy, the Academy of African Urban Diversities, the Society for Social Studies of Science, and by the Institute for Ethiopian Studies at the Addis Ababa University. Her current book project, Losing Ground: Emergent Black Empire and Counter-Futures in Urban Ethiopia, ethnographically explores how categories of blackness and race, as well as experiences of urban and national dispossession, are attached to an infrastructure of emergent empire in East Africa. Her next project will follow female laborers through the gendered and racialized routes of economic exchange, Chinese investment, and resource extraction in the East African corridor.

The views in which surveys are taken hold within them power to attribute value to space. This project proposes a questioning of the value assigned to land and its virtual construction in drawings or maps. Ideally held as a series of ‘growing cartographies’ (produced as a series of simple moving GIFs), this creative piece aims to, for a fleeting view, will into existence, sight and value that which has been unseen, overlooked or folded within, under or between the visible registrations of measurable, ‘surveyable’ property. The top-down gaze of land surveys is challenged, through new strange surveys which occupy the edges, folds, tears of and undersides of maps deliberately articulating altered perspectival views into and under fascinating spaces of lesser-known value production; to potential inscribe those of unseen labouring or the fluid yet tangible value of cultural exchanges which aggregate particularly in Johannesburg’s inner city. The current plan is to focus on Ethiopian and Somali markets which occupy high-rise buildings off Jeppe St in Johannesburg, to draw out and show the unregistered value of vertical surfaces that are occupied for display, transaction and strategic positioning. These include footwear, spices and fabric shops, as well as signmarkings for wayfinding and advertising purposes. Many of these spaces are claimed insurgently, somewhat defiantly, of ideas of ‘Gross Lettable Area’, finding new surfaces for value production. The intention is not so much to survey these spaces, rather than to use what is already happening in these spaces as a spatial counteract to destabilise the power of the top-down survey The drawings that are proposed would manipulate and distort land-survey languages, to speculate new sites, and new measuring methods, of economic value production of property beyond the sterility of erf lines, square meterage, or coordinate positions. This project seeks to find and represent (albeit precariously) other elusive ‘lands’ which hold value in dynamic,messy ways which challenge colonial rationalities of valuation.

Sarah de Villiers is an architect and designer, based in Johannesburg. Her work engages with the spatially detectable abstractions of power and economy, and modes for transaction at the edges of these. She co-leads GSA Unit 18 at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg and is the director at SpaceKIOSK.

We spoke to some of the most exciting scholars and practitioners about mapping, space, power, coloniality and the African continent/diaspora.

My research and teaching are informed by an interest in the ways in which states and communities interact in place. So for example, how are government policies and programs implemented or translated into everyday experiences; how do community members use, narrate and shape their environments; and in turn how do those actions and stories influence new government policies and programs. I focus this general interest through questions around citizenship and immigration, and environmental justice and urban health.These interests also reflect my interdisciplinary training centred around social planning and community development with stops in political science, biology and geography.

I propose a visual contribution that supports a radical reimagination of the terrain of anti-carceral and anti-imperial action. By centering the disconnected diaristic writings and biographies of women of African descent who live(d) as political prisoners, I envision a map that connects both the temporal and geographic realities of African women’s political activism and defiance. The map joins Lucy Parsons and Assata Shakur (U.S.A 1913, 1970s) to Gambo Sawaba (Nigeria 1960s), to recently imprisoned transwoman, Shakiro, (Cameroon, 2021) to illuminate the colonial logic of incapacitation-cum-extraction, racialization, and sexed labeling. Simultaneously, the work should allow observers to piece together the methods of sexual definition, surveillance and intrusion that states use to suppress African women’s public anti-imperialism and revolutionary thought. I would like to highlight the criminalizing mechanisms stemming from the colonial carceral legacy that attempts to sort racialized bodies into troubled sexes and continually subject us to particular laws, such as public indecency or nuisance, to entrap people in jails, prisons and the cyclical carcerality of economic retribution. With the visual component, I hope to communicate that women and genderqueer people of African descent have been naming prisons as a central place of perpetual imperialist oppression, which outlasts the traditional temporal bounds of Western colonialism.

SM Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor of Gender, Rights and Human Rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science. A scholar-activist, they have spent the last decade researching queer and racial justice movement-making throughout the African Diaspora and organizing with the Audre Lorde Project in New York City. Their first book, The Economies of Queer Inclusion: Transnational Organizing for LGBTI Rights in Uganda (2019) questioned the effect of transnational activism on the grassroots movement in Uganda for kuchu dignity and safety from state violence. They formerly worked to develop Hofstra University’s programs in critical criminology and LGBTQ+ studies.

We spoke to some of the most exciting scholars and practitioners about mapping, space, power, coloniality and the African continent/diaspora. 

Suzanne Hall is an interdisciplinary urban scholar and her work connects the asymmetries of global migration and urban marginalisation. From the grounded perspective of peripheral street economies, she explores the racialised frameworks of citizenship and economic inequality and their everyday contestations. By moving between globe, state and street, she engages with the margins as a capricious space in which social sorting, cultural intermixtures and claims to difference are forged. Her work pays attention to how wide geographies shape our knowledge of the urban condition, and is invested in the ethnographic possibilities of seeing political economies through the everyday.

In this work, I am thinking with two stamps: one depicting the Intelsat V Satellite and another of the Earth Satellite Station built in Mazowe, Zimbabwe in 1985 and opened by former President Robert Mugabe. I explore how Satellite and Station figured in the imaginary of the newly independent nation – particularly through these stamps – contributing to a political economy of the imagery of Independence. This work reads the history of these stamps, their materiality, production and dissemination alongside the construction of an Earth Satellite Station and its attendant orbiting satellite, together with political events of the time. There are multiple strands of communication at play: in the visual imagery of the stamps, through the collectors artefact of the 'first day cover', the establishment of local facilities for satellite telecommunications in the country and finally, the way this was spoken about in the Zimbabwean press at the time. I find resonance in the theme of this work with the broader project in the way these means of communications serve to quite literally 'disembody' dialogue and speech (and the worlds they construct) allowing them to transmit across distance and time.

Thandi Loewenson (b.1989, Harare) is an architectural designer/researcher who operates through design, fiction and performance to interrogate our perceived and lived realms and to speculate on the possible worlds in our midst. Mobilising the ‘weird’ and the ‘tender’, she engages in projects which provoke questioning of the status-quo, whilst working with communities, policy makers, artists and architects towards acting on those provocations. Thandi is a tutor at the Royal College of Art, London, a Visiting Professor at the Aarhus School of Architecture, contributor to the Regional Network on Equity in Health in East and Southern Africa, co-curator of Race, Space & Architecture and a co-foundress of the architectural collective BREAK//LINE.

My contribution will be a series of vignettes and paper collages that reflect on the city of Kampala—an important site of contemporary urbanism and unmaking of colonial histories. The vignettes will be punctuated by these collages that disarticulate and reconstruct colonial spaces across the city. Using the railway line as a main site of investigation, the collages and vignettes explore the tension between contemporary place-making and colonial infrastructure. One of the main subjects of in the vignettes and collages is the Kampala Railway Station.Today, at the eastern end of downtown, the station remains an iconic vestige of colonial architecture. The building anchors the only formal set piece of planning in Kampala: the station’s front door forms an axis along Nakasero Hill with the parliament building. The station is a structure of brown sandstone, a two storey, horizontal volume. Since its construction in 1940, it remains almost unchanged in its present condition.In turn, the railway line appears to have abandoned its original purpose as a transport infrastructure. Whether functional or not, the line continues to make its mark and highlight the long history of division. The track has an unassuming presence in the city and everyday life has become integrated with the railway reserve. Street vendors, kiosk businesses, urban farmers and commuters gravitate towards the railway corridor: essentially now a slow-moving market space. Intersecting the central topography of the city, the track has become an interstitial zone. At the same time, downtown has in recent years developed around this large railway reserve, a crumbling urban obstacle to be navigated and built around.

Thomas Aquilina is a London-based architect and researcher. Since 2017 he has worked for Adjaye Associates. He co-directs the New Architecture Writers (N.A.W.) programme and is a co-founder of publishing collective Afterparti. His work features in digital and print publications, as well as exhibitions and public conversations. Thomas is invested in building communities of radical thought and progressive practice. His on-going research ‘Loose-fit Infrastructures’ explores the everyday life of downtown cities through a synthesis of image and text.

Last years’ uprisings for black lives have sparked the globe in midst of a pandemic, strengthening an anti-racist mass movement and dismantling the carceral conjuncture of racial gendered capitalism. Movements and activists not only stood in solidarity with the black criminalized and working poor in the US, but further drew connections that attend to the local and global dimensions and entanglements of the punitive turn. Engaging with these connections and challenging methodological nationalism(s) with regard to struggles for black lives, this contribution discusses the practices of abolition geographies, and how these practices are in transnational conversation. Drawing on collaborative research with black-led collectives and initiatives in France, Germany and Switzerland, understood as relational locations not as bounded units, this project links abolition geographies in the Black Atlantic and the Black Mediterranean and therefore traces contemporary forms and spatial practices of black abolitionist internationalism.

Vanessa E. Thompson is an Assistant Professor in Black Studies in the Department of Gender Studies at Queen’s University, Canada. Her research and teaching interests include black studies, critical racism and migration studies, anti-colonial thought, state violence (carceral geographies, especially policing), global abolition, transnational feminism and feminist activist ethnographies. She has published on blackness and black movements in France and Europe more broadly, Fanonian thought, and black abolitionist struggles and world-making. She coedited a special issue on 'Black Feminisms' in Femina Politica (2021), a special issue on 'Abolitionist Futures. Prefigurations beyond Violence' inBehemoth. A Journal on Civilisation (2021) and a coedited reader on abolition is forthcoming (2022). Vanessa is a member of the International Independent Commission on the Death of Oury Jalloh and organizes with abolitionist feminist collectives in Europe and globally.