Archive

Africa

‘Archival Urge’ is the second part of the symposium ‘Document Fever’ organised by the Architectural Association in collaboration with the Architecture Space & Society Centre, Birkbeck School of Arts on 25 February 2022. This time in partnership with KNUST, this panel aims to celebrate three projects that ‘collect’ histories of architecture in very different ways. We will think, amongst other questions, about the archival impulse/fever that made these projects coincide in time and space; the archival need to collect histories that are missing in architectural history; and the diverse formats of archive-making that these projects have taken or are taking.  


1. Aalii to Zygomorphic (2020) by Rexford Assasie Oppong (KNUST) 
2. Accra Architecture Archive (ongoing) led by Kuukuwa Manful (SOAS) 
3. Sub-Saharan Africa: Architectural Guide (2021) Edited by Philipp Meuser and Adil Dalbai, with Livingstone Mukasa. 


Adil Dalbai 
Adil graduated from Humboldt University of Berlin with a master’s degree in modern history and cultural theory, specializing in the architectural history of Eurasia and (post)colonial contexts. He worked as an editor and author for DOM publishers, focusing on architecture and urbanism. He went on to study architecture at the Technical University of Berlin and worked at Meuser Architekten on architecture projects in Western Africa. He researches and writes about architecture in Central Asia and Africa and its global interconnections. Additionally, he is a guest critic and lecturer, as well as (co)editor and author of several articles and books on architecture, including Theorising Architecture in Sub-Saharan Africa (DOM publishers, 2021). Since 2014, he has been managing editorial director of Architectural Guide Sub-Saharan Africa (DOM publishers, 2021, with Philipp Meuser and Livingstone Mukasa), a seven–volume documentation of the architecture of all 49 African countries south of the Sahara. 

Kuukuwa Manful 
Kuukuwa is a Doctoral Researcher at the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS, University of London. Her research examines the sociopolitics of West African nation-building and citizenship through a study of the architecture of educational institutions. She has a Master of Architecture and a BSc Architecture degree from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and an MSc in African Studies from The University of Oxford. Her previous research has explored the positioning of Ghanaian architects in the modernist movement; Asante architectural identity; and social acceptance of earth building in urban areas. She has published in Al Jazeera, Burning House Press, Africa Is A Country, and The Metropole. Kuukuwa curates Adansisɛm— an architecture collective that documents Ghanaian architecture theory, research and practice, and runs accra archive— an architecture archives digitisation project. She also co-founded and runs sociarchi— a social architectural enterprise that advocates for, and provides architectural services to people who ordinarily cannot afford architects.

Philipp Meuser
Born 1969, Managing director of Meuser Architekten GmbH and head of DOM publishers. From 1991 to 1995, studied architecture at the Berlin Technical University. From 1995 to 1996, editorial work for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Switzerland. Part-time postgraduate studies in the History and Theory of Architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zürich), graduating in 1997. PhD on the Soviet Mass Housing (Berlin Technical University, 2015). Federal Cross of Merit for cultural and scientific exchange with the states of the former Soviet Union (2018). From 1996 to 2001, policy advisor to the Senate Department for Urban Development as part of the Stadtforum Berlin. Visiting Professorship at the Kazakh National Technical University, Almaty (2015). Tutor at the Strelka Institute Moscow (2016/2017) and the Architectural Association London (Easter Island Visiting School 2017). Since 2018 Honorary Professorship at the O.M. Beketov National University of Urban Economy in Kharkiv, Ukraine. 2022 Visiting Professor for Public Humantities at Brown University in Providence/Rhode Island. 

Livingstone Mukasa
Livingstone Mukasa’s career has included architectural practice, urban design, master planning, real estate development, and sustainable development consulting. He founded and managed Archability, an online architectural crowdsourcing start-up, and Afritecture, an online platform on architecture in Africa. He is currently principal of Mahali, a collaborative design studio focused on cultural and contextual architectural engagement, and a frequent guest reviewer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s School of Architecture. Passionate about architecture in Africa, he is coauthor and associate editor of Theorising Architecture in Sub-Saharan Africa (DOM publishers, 2021), and Architectural Guide Sub-Saharan Africa (DOM publishers, 2021, with Philipp Meuser and Adil Dalbai), a seven–volume documentation of the architecture of all 49 countries south of the Sahara. Born in Kampala, Uganda, he holds a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from New York Institute of Technology, and graduate certificates from the Graduate School of Architecture, Harvard University in Urban Housing and Mixed–Use Developments.

Rexford Assassie Opong 
Rexford Assassie Opong (PhD) is currently a Full Professor of Architecture and Dean of International Programmes Office of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi. He is a practicing architect of over twenty years’ experience. He obtained his Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture from the premier Liverpool School of Architecture — University of Liverpool; Masters in Urban Planning and Management from University of Rome-La Sapienza; Postgraduate Diploma in Architecture, KNUST; and Bachelor of Science in Design, UST, Kumasi. He researches and has widely published on the following topics: Architectural Identity, Metamorphosis and Disorderliness, Ecological Aesthetics and Architecture, Architecture and Fractals, The Built Environment and Climate Change,Urbanism and Architectural Modernism in Africa, Architecture and Health, Architectural Habitus, Architecture and land, Taste in Architecture, Architecture; Science and Arts Debate, and Kinship, Land, and Architecture in Urban Ghana. 
 
Organiser and chair: Albert Brenchat-Aguilar 
Albert is a Lecturer (teaching) at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. Previously, he co-curated the public programme and publications of the Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL, edited the digital platform Ceramic Architectures and worked as an architect in Bombas Gens Arts Centre. He is a CHASE-funded PhD student at Birkbeck and the Architectural Association with the project ‘Resource: Humans Matter and the Patterns of International Planning c. 1957-76’, whilst cataloguing the archive of educator, architect, and planner Otto Koenigsberger. His coedited volume ‘Wastiary: A bestiary of waste’ will be published soon he hopes. He has published in Architecture&Culture, Espacio Fronterizo, and The Scottish Left Review, curated shows at UCL and the Polytechnic University of Valencia, and exhibited his artworks at Museu Nogueira Da Silva. He is currently a visiting researcher at the Department of Architecture, KNUST. 

Full event details and booking

This event is held as part of Arts Week 2022, a festival of the latest creativity and research from Birkbeck’s School of Arts

Name: Adefolatomiwa Toye

PhD Research Title and Summary: Development and National Identity: Tropical Modernism in Post-Independence Nigerian Universities 

The aftermath of the Second World War brought a shift in the policies of the British Empire towards the infrastructural development of colonies in West Africa. Massive projects ranging from transportation to healthcare and including education went underway in Nigeria, the largest colony in West Africa. Various commissions from the 1940s and nationalist agitations eventually led to the establishment of the first university in West Africa in 1947- the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Colonial architects such as Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, who specialised in modernist designs for the tropics, were hired for this and other major projects. 

Ibadan University

With the country’s independence from colonial rule in the foresights in the late 1950’s, a new desire for a unified national identity arose. This aimed to erase dividing ethnic lines and create a collective identity in the culturally heterogeneous new nation. Infrastructural projects were commissioned, ranging from public buildings to higher education institutions. These projects designed and built following the tropical modernist architecture of the colonial were used in developing a new built environment for Nigeria. I am interested in examining the tropical modernist architecture of Nigerian higher education projects in the 1960s and their role in the country’s development and representing the national identity for the newly independent Nigeria.

Ibadan University

Aims and Objectives:

-examine the position of higher education projects in creating a new sense of identity and nation building

-explore the first universities established in post-independent Nigeria within the social and political context of the 1960s

-highlight the roles of Nigerian actors who championed, designed, and built higher education projects

-compare tropical modernist style of higher educational buildings before independence and post-independence

What did you do before the PhD Research?

I recently completed my master’s degree in Environmental Design at the University of Lagos, Nigeria where I also obtained my undergraduate degree in Architecture. I also worked part-time at A3: Archives of African Architecture, an organization based in Lagos that documents architecture of practices in the country and promotes documentation of endangered built environments in Africa.

Why did you pursue a PhD, and what made you choose the University of Liverpool?

I first made a choice to purse a PhD in the third year of my undergraduate degree. Research satisfied my curiosity and I found it interesting and fulfilling to investigate the unknown and/or under researched areas in architecture (that I could relate to) and share it to the public. I think I also had enough time to weigh the pros and cons and honestly question my reasons and be certain for my interest in undertaking a PhD.

I chose the University of Liverpool for a few reasons. The research area was of great interest to me. I was surrounded by tropical architecture in the University of Lagos and studied some of the buildings only as case studies for studio projects. It was exciting to do a PhD on this topic that didn’t study these buildings in isolation but within the wider context of the period they were designed and built. 

The programme also provided me with the opportunity to gain experience outside academia at the National Archives in London which caught my interest. I was also confident in the calibre of my supervisors and the wealth of experience they had in their fields. It also helped that Liverpool is a coastal city with beaches and waterfront views just like Lagos.

What have you found the most fun part of the PhD, and the most challenging?

I am at the beginning of my PhD, and I find learning more about my research area interesting. There is something new to learn everyday and that alone excites me. 

I think the most challenging part for me is managing the scale of my research. It is still a new experience and managing my project myself is still very unfamiliar. 

Post-PhD? Any ideas of what you’d like to do next?

I do not yet have a clear path post-PhD but I am sure my programme will enable me try new opportunities within and outside academia. I think this will help me make a more informed choice.

Any advice for others interested in doing a PhD?

It is particularly important to like what you want to research. When it becomes challenging, it helps to know that you are working on something that you chose and genuinely enjoy. 

You also don’t have to be very excellent in research, although experience in research helps. A PhD is a learning process, and it gets better.

Call for Papers for Modern Heritage in the Anthropocene Symposium

Modern Heritage in the Anthropocene is part of the MoHoA global collaborative and builds on the Modern Heritage of Africa symposium hosted by the University of Cape Town in September 2021. Coordinated by The Bartlett’s Professor Edward Denison and Head of the University of Liverpool’s School of Architecture, Professor Ola Uduku, along with partners at the University of Cape Town, the Africa World Heritage Fund and around the world, this upcoming hybrid symposium responds to an age of planetary crisis in which a precarious present reflects an inequitable past and a perilous future.

The international railway settlement of Fushun (northeast China), with its modern town planning and the Ryuho Colliery, built by Denang and Siemens, and home to one of the world’s largest open cast mines in the 1930s.

Modern heritage in all its forms and from around the world is the subject of this multidisciplinary symposium, presenting the paradox of being of modernity and yet threatened by its consequences. MoHoA was originally conceived within an African context to interrogate this paradox because the continent encapsulates the historical inequities that characterise the modern and its associated notions of development and progress while also facing the highest rates of urbanisation over the next 30 years, demanding new approaches to the past and present that achieve equitable and sustainable futures on a planetary scale. The outcomes of the two symposia will synthesise in the recognition of the Cape Town Document on Modern Heritage.

Call for papers

Submissions are invited from researchers, academics, and practitioners. The organisers are seeking papers or equivalent submissions that critically engage with reframing, re-evaluating, decentring, and decolonising recent, hidden or marginalised pasts in pursuit of achieving more equitable, just, and sustainable futures. Participants will contribute to the completion of the Cape Town Document on Modern Heritage, supporting policy change at a global level through our partner UNESCO.

Topics can include, but are not limited to:

  • Practices of coloniality, decentring and decolonising history and historiography
  • Considerations and conceptualisations of multiple modernities
  • Modern heritage and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Planetary futures and the Anthropocene
  • Infrastructure and (post)-industrial heritage
  • Combining culture and nature, and the role of natural heritage in society
  • Challenging binaries (rural/urban, modern/traditional, nature/culture, tangible/intangible, racial/non-racial etc)
  • Public space and memory: memorialisation, commemoration and remembering
  • Modern heritage and the World Heritage Convention

How to submit

Submissions should be in English or French and should be emailed to mohoa@ucl.ac.uk by 31 May 2022. 

Notification of acceptance will be provided by 30 June. Abstracts should be a maximum of 300 words or equivalent format (e.g. film shorts, blog, or Instagram story) for other types of digital submissions.

Selected papers or presentations will be published as part of the MoHoA Book Series after the conference and selected extended papers will appear in a special edition of the journal ‘Curator’.

More here: http://www.mohoa.uct.ac.za

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

Trains & Tracks in Africa — A Dialogue on Infrastructures and Mobilities in Africa

Thursday 17.03.22, 9h30 – 19h00 / Location: Africa Museum, Leuvensesteenweg 13, 3080 Tervuren

During this international conference, a series of scholars from different disciplines (history, anthropology, political science, architecture,..) and backgrounds will present their (ongoing) research on railways in Africa and engage in a conversation with Anne Wetsi Mpoma  and two artists currently in residence in the context of Europalia Arts Festival, Alexandre Kyungu Mwilambwe and Arnaud Makalou. Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka will start the day with a keynote lecture. Please note that interventions will be in French and/or English, with no simultaneous translation.

More info on the program via: https://assets.ctfassets.net/h7vzq2rtwdqn/55gupj1LDvB36PCNfN1Yh/418013f8b9a463687bfe86b13752e562/Trains___Tracks_in_Africa_1603.pdf

and: https://webappsx.ugent.be/eventManager/events/exhibitionbordersmobilitieslandscapes

and: https://www.africamuseum.be/fr/see_do/agenda/trains_tracks/17.03.22

OPENING EXHIBITION BORDERS, MOBILITIES AND LANDSCAPES

Wednesday 16.03.22, 19h00 – 22h00 / Location: VANDENHOVE, Rozier 1, 9000 Gent

We will open a work-in-progress exhibition of work produced by students and staff of the Department of Architecture and Planning of Ghent University on the theme of the railway in Africa, conducted over the last couple of years. Two keynote lectures, one by historian Geert Castryck (University of Leipzig, Germany) and one by digital humanities scholar Chao Tayiana Maina (African Digital Heritage, Kenya) will provide a broader context on the theme. The interventions will be in English.

In the UAC archive amongst the Public Relations files is ‘Nigeria Magazine‘. From within the mat brown cardboard of the archive box springs a collection of beautifully designed and printed set of publications. The magazine was a Government sponsored venture, published by the Cultural Division of the Ministry of Information in Lagos. It was issued quarterly from around 1937 until the mid-1980s “for everyone interested in the country and its peoples”. The focus of the editorial was varied and wide ranging, covering topics across the arts, history, architecture, literature, and culture in Nigeria. There was a strong commitment and celebration of ‘local’ art, as well as extensive articles on planning, housing, and architecture from across the ages. The contributing authors were often experts and highly regarded scholars. Ulli Beier was a frequent writer, and the quality and tone of the editorial was consciously accomplished, supplemented by some striking images and high quality graphics.

Covers of Nigeria Magazine from the 1960s, held in UAC archive

Articles were published on the history of cities, including “Ibadan, Black Metropolis” in 1961, relishing in the city’s longevity and traditions, as well as welcoming its position as a new centre for finance and media (see Design Group’s Finance building below). Other sections included biographies on key personalities, such as June 1966 with its feature on architect Alex Ifeanyichikwu Ekwueme (1932-2017).

Ekwueme studied at Washington University on a Fullbright Scholarship in 1952, and went onto to work at Nickson and Partners in London (is this Nickson and Boris?) before setting up a firm in Nigeria that grew to 16 offices. He designed the United Christian College at Apapa, Universal Insurance Building Enugu, and the Administration Building for the Nigerian Petroleum Refinery Company, amongst others. Ekwueme’s architectural career ended when he was elected Vice-President of Nigeria in 1979.

Architect and Vice-President of Nigeria, Alex Ifeanyichikwu Ekwueme (1932-2017), from Nigeria Magazine, June 1966.

Whilst there was a lofty desire to promote local art, culture, and history, other articles appear to focus on trade and industry, presenting what are effectively op-eds or public relations pieces as historical accounts. In 1960 there was a special report on The Niger River Transport Company and Burutu, “Nigeria’s Timber Industry” featured in December 1962, focusing on the work and settlements of the African Timber and Plywood company – both subsidiary companies of of United Africa Company (UAC). Again, the Company features in various other articles, such as “The UAC in Nigeria’s economic growth” in December 1965. It’s a thorough and detailed account, going to some length to stress how the company is ‘inseparable’ from Nigeria’s economic growth. The article was also eager to stress the restructuring of the company and how it now operated as a series of smaller locally managed entities ‘to encourage the growth of industry and trade in local Nigerian hands’.

It seems that the magazine had a mandate beyond art and culture, and sought to shape opinion (particularly in the emerging and educated middle classes) on business and trade matters. The seductive and authoritative format of the journal gave these opinions validity, and allowed a particular and curated message to be carefully presented. The advertisements within the journal also reinforced these messages and narratives of progress through industry.

At the same time, ‘traditional’ and ‘local’ practices were celebrated and discussed. There is something disarming in this technique. An ahistorical image was usually shown on the front cover, often a decontextualised figure in traditional dress sometimes playing an instrument – followed on the inner leaf by an advertisement for the latest fashions from Kingsway department store. The advertisers tended to belong to, or were in partnership with, the UAC group (e.g. Taylor Woodrow, Guinness, Kingsway Stores), and it seems likely their extensive patronage held some sway over the editorial content. The adverts were not geared towards selling specific products, but were there simply to bolster public opinion and shift attitudes towards modernity, progress, and societal advancement alongside a romanticised nationalist sense of history and culture.

The articles on architecture were also propagandist and concerned with presenting Nigeria as a place of rapid progress and impatient ambition. Again, the UAC story is followed with interest, and their newly proposed offices in Lagos (by Watkins and Gray) demonstrates the Company’s commitment to ongoing business in the newly independent country, and also the shift in its focus from import/export to real estate and property development.

Artist impression of the UAC’s Niger House in Lagos. Designed by Watkins Gray and Partners.

John Godwin, wrote an article entitled, “Architecture in Nigeria” in December 1966. It’s a potted history that starts with the regional building types, local materials, and climatic responses before moving onto the impact of corrugated iron sheeting (pan) and its limitations. Godwin sets out this story to demonstrate the sudden change in scale, building types, and growth of the construction industry in West Africa post-1945,

“Tower cranes were on the scene in 1955 and by 1961 two twenty-five-storey buildings had been completed in Ibadan and Lagos built by Italian firms who thirty years earlier were struggling with their labour force to build small houses”

Whilst acknowledging this rapid growth and exciting possibilities, he also goes on to caution that more ‘research’ is required, greater collaboration should exist between architects, and that building components and materials were still being imported at prohibitive costs. Overly extravagant “prestige building” was also targeted whilst low-cost housing problems remained unresolved. Whilst the claims and hopes for air-conditioning now seem somewhat out-dated, his desire for a civic pride and community spirit, tree planting, and care of the environment is pertinent and all the more urgent. Godwin’s approach was to propose an “architecture of ventilators and sun breakers”, a lexicon that he viewed as, “increasingly identifiable as West African.”

Offices and Flats in Kaduna, designed by Godwin and Hopwood, 1964

Contributing to this West African style was the Design Group’s “Nigerian Institute of International Affairs” (located on Lagos’s Kofo Abayomi Street). It was discussed at length by Alan Vaughan-Richards in the March/May 1968 edition of the magazine, where he particularly admired the sculptural mural, ‘The Art of Understanding” by Erhabor Emokpae in tooled concrete that revealed the granite aggregate. Inside the Institute are further sculptural elements, including a bronze figure representing Knowledge by Ben Enwonwu and positioned hovering above an evaporation pool. The interior includes some grand double-height spaces, dramatic cantilevered spiral staircases and travertine marble cladding (donated by the Italian contractor). At the rear of the plot there is an octagonal conference room with a dramatic star-shaped roof (still visible on Google maps).

The Institute was to promote peace and progress (the internal conflict taking place in Nigeria at that time was not mentioned), and was to operate as a centre for learning, research, and debate on global affairs.

June 1962 edition included an article on “Contemporary Nigerian Architecture” by D. J. Vickery, the former Head of Department at Singapore Polytechnic (did he then go on to work in Nigeria?). This is an exceptional article covering some of the latest construction in Nigeria, and Lagos in particular. As a gazetteer of the latest building work – including the work from recently qualified Nigerian architects – it formed one of the most detailed architectural surveys of the country. Although the crude categorisation of the works under three types; ‘Climate’, ‘Traditional Spirit’, and ‘Skyline’ is somewhat limited, it gets the message across, and more importantly illustrates what the Independence Boom meant to the towns and cities across Nigeria.

In addition to the speculative offices, headquarters and banking halls there was an impressive array of schools and libraries (many designed by James Cubitt who had also designed similar works in Sekondi and Koforidua, Ghana), but the focus here was undoubtedly on real estate and speculative construction.

Nigeria magazine illustrates how UAC and other global companies shifted their approach and emphasis during the early Independence period. UAC was presenting its suite of businesses as nationalist, pro-development, and key partners in the country’s future. They rapidly placed an emphasis on real estate, finance, and industrial development, whilst curating a sophisticated advertisement and public relations campaign, through an arts and culture journal, to bolster their local credentials and legitimacy in the history of Nigeria.

  

“Diaspora Remittance Flows: Restitution, Culture and Capital – ASAUK Biennial Conference 2022” 

We are pleased to announce the launch of the 2022 ASAUK biennial conference titled: “Diaspora Remittance Flows: Restitution, Culture and Capital”. This is an innovative conference which seeks to harness the global two-year involvement with online communications with our physical engagement with conferencing which we hope will return in 2022. This conference is conceived to enable our research colleagues in Africa (Ibadan, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya) to be part of the research conversation at the 29th ASAUK biennial conference, via the zoom media platform. We also will be running a smaller traditional in-person conference in Liverpool addressing this and other ASAUK member-determined themes. 

Running from August 31st – September 4th, 2022, the ASAUK Biennial conference will be a unique two-part conference. With British Academy funding, the first part will take place entirely online and involve ASAUK research colleagues based in Ibadan and Nairobi engaging in the conference themes from Africa based platforms shared across Africa and Liverpool in the UK. This will be followed by a smaller, traditional in-person conference, hosted by the ASAUK at the University of Liverpool. 

We invite you to attend the online conference, which is entirely free, and also to come to Liverpool for the ‘in-person’ conference, taking place from Friday 2nd – Sunday 4th September. The Liverpool conference will have a smaller audience, and conference panel requirements planned to pre-empt possible ongoing Covid health advice on conference size and appropriately spaced and ventilated conference facilities. Taking this into account, there will be online access to the physical Liverpool conference for a reduced fee. 

THE ONLINE CONFERENCE  31st August – 2nd September 

IBADAN-NAIROBI-LIVERPOOL  

Restitution, Culture and Capital

This is an entirely free to attend conference (with registration required).

Hosted by ASAUK colleagues at the IFRA Institute, at the University of Ibadan and the BIEA, Nairobi, the online conference has been directly funded by the British Academy, with generous supplementary funding from the BIEA. It will be delivered entirely online from both Ibadan and Nairobi, using the Zoom platform. Working closely with the Institutes in Ibadan and Nairobi, these interactive conferences will be broadcast on two consecutive days, from Ibadan on Wednesday 31st August and Nairobi on Thursday, 1st September. The final part of the online conference will be broadcast from Liverpool on Friday 2nd September, jointly chaired by the ASAUK and RAS presidents. 

We expect to curate and edit the key papers, from Ibadan, Nairobi and Liverpool that will be discussed at this unique online conference series. These with support from the British Academy will form the basis of the ASAUK publication Restitution Culture and Capital in Africa and the Diaspora, a trans-national conversation which will elaborate on the themes of the conference through the publication of the keynote papers and also the responses as recorded by participants at the three conference platforms.  

The panel session themes and keynotes for the three day online conference are as follows:

HOSTED ONLINE FROM IFRA, UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN

Curated by Vincent Hiribarren, Director IFRA Ibadan

Ibadan Session 1. DIASPORA FLOWS OF CULTURAL ARTEFACTS TO AND FROM AFRICA

Confirmed Keynote Speakers: Zachary Kingdon, Shadreck Chirikure

TBC David Adjaye

Ibadan Session 2 DIASPORA FLOWS OF PEOPLES AND CULTURES TO AND FROM AFRICA

Confirmed Keynote Speakers: Saheed Aderinto, Peju Layiwola  

TBC David Olusoga, Akosua Adomako Ampofo

HOSTED ONLINE FROM BIEA NAIROBI

Curated by Ambreena Manji + Freda Nkirote, Director of BIEA Nairobi

Nairobi Session 1 RESTITUTIONARY FUTURES: LAND JUSTICE

Confirmed Keynote Speaker: Parselelo Kantai

Nairobi Session 2 RESTITUTIONARY FUTURES: A JUST HOME

Confirmed Keynote Speakers: Prabha Kotiswaran 

LIVERPOOL HOSTED CONCLUDING SESSION

Curated by Ola Uduku and Arunma Oteh

African Diasporas, remittances and capital in a post-Covid era and Viewing the European Black Diaspora in the 2020s 

Confirmed Liverpool Keynote Speakers

Onyekachi Wambu Afford UK, Tunde Zack-Williams ASAUK

TBC Miatta Fahnbulleh, New Economics Foundation,

Prior to the online sessions keynote speakers will discuss their papers with Africa-based ECRs in workshop format.

THE LIVERPOOL ASAUK 29th BIENNIAL CONFERENCE

FRIDAY 2ND – SUNDAY 4TH September 2022

The ‘in-person’ Liverpool Conference follows the traditional panel theme format. Whilst the panel theme titled: Diaspora: Restitution, Culture and Capital, follows on directly from the online conference, we invite proposals for other panel themes.

As this is planned to be a smaller conference we call on panel proposers to ensure all panel proposals are sent in to the ASAUK conference team by 31st March, 2022. All proposals need to have the names of the 3 – 4 paper givers, and their abstracts submitted by the 31st March deadline. This will enable us to plan the conference space and facilities required. It will also mean that we can work to ensure that any documentation required for proposed international participants who might need this will get processed on time. We realise that this is different from the traditional conference format but hope you will join us for this unique, innovative conference in 2022. The 30th April is the later deadline for individual paper proposals. Due to the smaller conference format, space for individual papers will be limited and we encourage paper givers to consider working with emerging panel themes which will announce from February onwards.   

The 29th ASAUK biennial conference dinner will be held at Liverpool University’s Victoria Gallery and Museum on Saturday 3rd September. This will also be the venue for announcement and awards ceremony for the Audrey Richards prize, the Fage and Oliver prize and the distinguished Africanist awards ceremony. 

For more information about the 29th ASAUK conferencePlease contact the conference organisation team via the email address: asaukconference22@gmail.comPanel proposals, comprising the 3 – 4 papers with abstracts, can also now be sent to this address.   

We will be providing further information as the conference details develop on our website and via social media.

Thank you 

Ola Uduku ASAUK President

Shared Heritage Africa: Call for Applications: Digital Fellowships March-September 2022: https://sha.architectuul.com

We are pleased to announce an open call for 6 Digital Fellowships, to be awarded to students and young professionals in architecture related fields or with demonstrable interest in architecture, who are based in Ghana, Uganda or Nigeria.

Shared Heritage Africa: Rediscovering Masterpieces

The documentation and investigation of buildings can tell us a lot about how politics works, and a lot about the nature of the relationship between state and society – a concern of all partner organisations. The project focuses on the rediscovery of post-war modern buildings from the 1950-1970s. These fall in the period of independence from colonial rule, here from the United Kingdom (Ghana 1957, Nigeria 1960 and Uganda 1962), and have a great educational and socio-political significance. One focus of our discussions with the respective universities, which were founded by the majority during this period of independence and for which new campuses were usually built, among others:

  • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana (1952/1961),
  • University of Lagos (UNILAG), Lagos, Nigeria (1962),
  • University of Nigeria (UNN) (formerly Nigeria College of Arts Science and Technology), Nsukka, Nigeria,(1950s),
  • Busitema University (formerly National College of Agricultural Mechanisation), Busitema, Uganda (1968),
  • Kyambogo University (formerly Uganda Polytechnic), Kampala, Uganda (1958).Digital Fellowship ProgramThe 6 month long digital fellowship program involves participants working on documentation, investigation and representation of those post-war modernist buildings from the 1950-1970s in Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. The fellowship program focuses on development of written and visual material on those buildings through scientific writing, photography and digital publishing using different media (text, photo, film and internet).The fellows will be involved in online tutoring and in-person activities undertaken over the period. They will contribute to the online platform Architectuul and the new digest/Blog “Shared Heritage Africa”, allowing for exchange with the professional actors and society, locally and globally. The results shall be presented and discussed at the 17th International DOCOMOMO Conference (IDC) in Valencia (Spain) in September 2022. Each fellow will receive a travel grant for joining the conference.

  • EligibilityPlease note the following conditions for participation:
    • –  Students and young professionals in architecture related fields or with demonstrable interest inarchitecture and other related disciplines, such as: Architecture, Urban Design, History, Social Science,Journalism, Urban Studies, Creative Writing, are eligible to participate.
    • –  If they are based in Ghana, Uganda or Nigeria.
    • –  Strong written communication skills and/or photography and/or digital publishing skills are required.
    • –  Previous experience conducting and communicating ideas or research publicly (blogs, articles,dissertations) is desirable.

Full Details and Application Form: https://sha.architectuul.com

Eager to secure the provision of raw materials at low cost to its flourishing soap factories in Liverpool, Lever Brothers and the United Africa Company (UAC) acquired land concessions from colonial states across the oil palm belt in West Africa. Beginning from the early 1910s, subsidiaries such as the Huilieries du Congo Belge (HCB, later Huilever and Plantations du Congo), and Pamol, established oil palm plantations in today’s DR Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

Plantation workers holding a bunch of fruit of Elaeis Guineensis (African oil palm). Oil is derived from fruit’s outer layer and cracked kernel. The photo was taken near the Alberta plantation in the Belgian Congo, probably in the 1930s or 1940s.
Agronomists selected oil palm varieties to maximise the quantity of oil and facilitate the cracking of the kernels.
Plan of a plantation on the Benin river in Nigeria showing the subdivision of the planted area in square sectors; the location of the oil mill and wharfs where palm oil was extracted and loaded on boats; and the area where worker houses were built.


Historians such as Jules Marchal lengthily detailed the brutality of Lever Brother’s exploitation especially in the Belgian Congo, the forced resettlement of local population, and the violent repression of “uncooperative workers”. However, this attitude uneasily coexisted with a paternalistic, but probably genuine, hope that plantations would bring “progress and civilisation”. Such hope – Benoit Henriet argues – was compromised by the overriding need to turn a profit but it requires to be analysed beyond oversimplifying narratives of predatory capitalism.

Our initial exploration of the rich UAC archival collection revealed that plantations had been the locus of a wide array of experiments combining agronomic knowledge with political, economic, social, and cultural tools. The plans and photos of worker houses and communal facilities, and the numerous written exchanges on the social aspects of work organisation and the daily life of workers in the plantation shows that architecture played a relevant role in giving tangible form to the company’s largely unfulfilled ambitions to widespread social development.

Diorama showing two HCB oil palm plantations presented at the Ghent Universal and International Exhibition in 1913.
“Model houses” for workers in the Brabanta plantation, Belgian Congo.
Native dwelling quarters in an unidentified Huilever plantation.
Views of worker houses and public facilities in Leverville, Belgian Congo.


While the construction of villages for plantation workers such as Leverville offers the occasion for a critical reflection on the role of architecture in private colonial exploitation, other documents from the UAC archives suggest that plantations had been the testing ground for innovative spatial planning models. Indeed, over the course of the 20th century, changes in plantation management and spatial structure overlapped with the evolution of ideas on social engineering and rural development.

In the 1930s and 1940s for example – as Jonathan Robins highlights – in response to the well grounded critiques on the social and environmental sustainability of plantations in West Africa, UAC proposed plans for a reformulation of plantation organisational system. The model they proposed would later influence policy recommendations given by international organisations such as the World Bank to developing countries across the globe. The experimental plantation model, the Nucleus Estate-Smallholder (NES) model, claimed to combine the virtues of the plantation system of management with the “social attractions” of peasant agriculture. This farming system entailed a spatial structure in which a nucleus, composed of a plantation established on a land concession and managed by UAC, is surrounded by further plantation sectors operated by smallholders.

The extent to which this and other models were successful in improving the living condition of local farmers or rather were functional smokescreens for the perpetuation of colonial or neo-colonial extractivism remains an highly debated topic. Certainly, plantations remains, both at the architectural and territorial scale, a fascinating subject which we will continue to explore in the following months and an opportunity to explore the multiple intersections between development ideologies, colonial and post colonial histories, and architectural and planning knowledges.




Henriet, B. (2021) Colonial impotence: virtue and violence in a Congolese Concession (1911-1940), De Gruyter Oldenburg.

Robins, J.E. (2021) Oil palm: a global history, University of North Carolina Press.

Marchal, J. (2008) Lord Leverhulme’s ghosts, Verso. First published in French as (2001) Travail force’ pour l’huile de palme de Lord Leverhulme: l’histoire du Congo 1910-1945, vol.3, Paula Bellings.

For the past months, we have been exploring the vast United Africa Company (UAC) archive held at Unilever in Port Sunlight. The archive documents decades of commercial activity in West Africa, which left a significant imprint on the built and natural environment. The UAC extracted raw materials such as palm oil and timber, but also exported finished goods such as cars, building materials, and refrigerators. The UAC also sold British products in its department stores across Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, it operated its own shipping line, named Palm Line, that ferried goods between the UK and West Africa. We have come across a variety of different materials, ranging from maps documenting the company’s palm oil plantations in the Congo and architectural drawings showing the modern Kingsway stores in Lagos and Freetown, to detailed notes related to the design of the UAC’s port, Burutu, in the Niger Delta.

Tropical hardwood at Sapele, Nigeria
African Timber and Plywood Concessions in Ghana, ca. 1955

One aspect of the UAC I have been focusing on these past months is the company’s timber operations in Ghana and Nigeria. In the early twentieth century, the UAC founded the African Timber Company (later the African Timber and Plywood Company), located in Sapele, Nigeria. Through a range of concession agreements with local chiefs, they managed to consolidate vast areas of territory around Sapele from which they extracted a wide range of different tropical hardwoods for export to the UK. At the same time, the company began operating in Ghana (then still the Gold Coast), in Samreboi, a hundred miles inland from the port of Takoradi. After World War II, they also built a plywood factory in Sapele—the first of its kind in this area and described as ‘the largest industrial plant in West Africa’—and began producing plywood at a large scale. Using photographs and written documentation, I have begun to explore the construction of these two company towns and their wider infrastructure. While the factories and processing plants were built using prefabricated steel sheds made by Arcon (also responsible for prefabricated houses in the UK during the postwar period), the bungalows for the company’s British employees can be described as traditional. Later, a Timber Research Laboratory was added, as well as showrooms, and several local facilities such as a (plywood) cinema and clubhouse. Through felling hundreds of thousands of logs every year, the company irrevocably left an imprint on these two areas in Ghana and Nigeria and had a devastating impact on the natural environment.

The plywood factory in Sapele, Nigeria
Sapele, Nigeria, in the 1950s
The Timber Research Laboratory at Sapele, Nigeria

What is interesting is how the work of the African Timber and Plywood Company aligns with the British government’s focus on ‘empire timber’, or the push to use timber in Britain from different parts of the empire for furniture as well as architecture and interior design. While the government attempted to promote empire timber through a variety of exhibitions in the first decades of the twentieth century, the UAC archive reveals how widespread the use of tropical hardwood and plywood produced in Sapele and Samreboi was during the postwar period. Often marketed as giving ‘a feeling of warmth’, it was used for modern furniture made by the Conran Design Group, doors, window frames, and outside paneling for a variety of council housing, but also as interior decoration and flooring in buildings such as the Commonwealth Institute in London and the Commonwealth Royal Pool in Edinburgh. The former headquarters of the UAC in London, United Africa House at Blackfriars, is another case in point: the building’s interior functioned as a display of tropical timber, ranging from mahogany to African walnut and Sapele hardwood—all produced by the company.

Modular furniture designed by the Conran Design Group, made of African walnut
Different types of tropical hardwood used for the interior of United Africa House, London, 1960s

Another fascinating aspect is the shift to production for the local, West African market in the 1960s and ‘70s, after Independence. Aside from furniture, one innovation was ATP Systems Building, a prefabricated building system using tropical hardwood and plywood. The company promoted this as an affordable, quick, and flexible way to build without requiring much technical knowledge. Documents I found in the archive point out that ATP Systems Building was widely deployed in, for example, Warri, a rapidly growing oil town in Nigeria, to build houses, offices, and schools.

The ATP Showroom in Benin City, Nigeria (originally built for the Lagos Trade Fair of 1962)
An ATP employee selling an ATP Systems Building bungalow in Nigeria, ca. 1970

Overall, the archive of the African Timber and Plywood company demonstrates, once again, how (modern) architectural construction in Britain was shaped by colonialism and, conversely, how British companies continued to impact design in the former colonies after independence. Many questions, however, are still unanswered. How, for example, was the work of the timber companies related to the colonial government’s efforts to promote empire timber from Nigeria? How should we understand the widespread use of (colonial) timber in postwar Britain? What prompted the shift to focus on the Nigerian market after Independence? How successful was ATP Systems Building? Over the coming months, we will continue to explore these issues.

During the past month we’ve continued our exploratory work in the Unilever archive pursuing a broad scoping exercise to determine and survey what is contained within Storeroom Number 4. The archive catalogue is extensive, detailed, and provides incredibly useful descriptions of what lies within – but inevitably there are unexpected items and fine details that remain beyond the limits of the usual cataloguing descriptions. 

East Street, Freetown, 1905

Our sampling has examined a wide range of materials, including the large photographic albums from the late 19th and early 20thC. These carefully preserved documents reveal the early ventures in the Oil Rivers, the exploits of the Niger Company, the development of Freetown, and new buildings in Ghana. The albums have provided important details of the early trading stations that transitioned from boat hulks to riverbank factories and stores of the Niger Delta, Burutu, and beyond. The collection includes photographs of everyday street scenes, new stores, and wharf extensions, we well as major political events. The images from Freetown, Sierra Leone, by photographer Alphonso Sylvester Lisk-Carew (1887–1969) taken in 1905, reveal a systematic street-by-street catalogue of the burgeoning town, and details of new store being built for Peter Ratcliffe Ltd. Most of the various trading companies produced and retained extensive photographic records, including, for example G. B. Ollivant with its Manchester warehouses filled with calico and wax prints ready for export to the coast.  Palm oil was the main export commodity being shipped from West Africa, and William Hesketh Lever’s plantations in Congo are an essential part of this story. We’ve uncovered some early photos of the plantations and worker housing at ‘Leverville’ (now Lusanga). 

Housing at Samreboi

We’ve began to review the timber processing factories and associated settlements of Sapele and Samreboi. Trading as the African Timber and Plywood Company the archive includes an important set of material on the creation of these sawmills, processing plants, and associated staff housing and facilities. The Company was also involved in developing a series of experimental prefabricated and kit housing. We’re especially interested in the relationship the UAC had with construction and building materials companies/contractors, and we’ve reviewed the archival files connected to Taylor Woodrow. The UAC was a shareholder in this major construction company, and we’d like to examine how the two enterprises collaborated to deliver their building programmes and wider ambitions. The complex web of UAC businesses and shareholding arrangements becomes ever more complex and entangled. 

Management Housing at Samreboi

A significant portion of the UAC archive is devoted to brewing and breweries. The UAC established collaborative ventures with Heineken and Guinness to produce the famous Star beer and a range of malt-flavoured beverages. We’ve found some extraordinary designs for worker welfare facilities designed by Godwin and Hopwood at the Lagos brewery, as well as factory layouts and extensive promotional material. This is another example of the UAC working with specialist producers, spreading its risk, and also creating new business for its various subsidiaries. A similar model was deployed with UAC Motors that imported various vehicles and acted as agents, spare suppliers, and repair garages for the manufacturers in Europe and US. 

Godwin and Hopwood Lagos Brewery Welfare Block

Retail and Wholesale business remained a core part of the UAC enterprise with the Kingsway Department stores being the most prominent and well-known retailer. Some excellent work has already been done on Kingsway, but the extensive archival material reveals a lot more to examine.  Major photographic collections and architectural drawings devoted this array of shops and their lavish interior displays have been carefully preserved. The largest and most famous branches were at Accra and Lagos, but other lesser-known stores at, for example, Apapa (designed by T P Bennett, 1960) and Jos, clearly warrant further research and investigation. 

Sketch for Apapa Kingsway Store, by TP Bennett
Kingsway Stores at Jos, Nigeria

Our archival trawling exercise will continue until Christmas 2021 and we’re hoping that by that time we’ll have a clearer picture of the overall collection and the areas/themes we’ll continue to investigate to much greater depths.