As dusk fades and another night without electricity falls, Kinshasa's neighborhoods reveal an environment of violence, political conflict, and uncertainty over the building of the Grand Inga 3 hydroelectric dam, which promises a permanent source of energy to the Congo.
Nelson Makengo, Up at Night, 2018, 20 min. 10”
Filip De Boeck
Kinshasa and its (Im)material Infrastructure
In ongoing discussions concerning the nature of the African city architects, urban planners, sociologists, anthropologists, demographers and others devote a lot of attention to the built form, and more generally to the city’s material infrastructure. Architecture has become a central issue in western discourses and reﬂections on how to plan, engineer, sanitize and transform the urban site and its public spaces. Mirror-ing that discourse, architecture has also started to occupy an increasingly important place in attempts to come to terms with the speciﬁcities of the African urbanscape and to imagine new urban paradigms for the African city of the future. Indeed, one can hardly underestimate the importance of the built form and of the material, physical infrastructure if one wants to understand the ways the urban space unfolds and designs itself. For example, studying the process of the “bunkerization” of the city, as it is called by its inhabitants, that is the fact that one of Kinshasa’s crucial spaces, the compound, has evolved from an open space lined by ﬂowers and shrubs in the 1940s and 50s to today’s closed parcelles, surrounded by high walls that make the inside invisible to the street, would certainly contribute to a better understanding of the city’s his-tory of unraveling social relationships, its altered sense of security and its changing attitude towards the qualities of public and private.[continue reading...]