The African Cities Reader is a biennial publication that brings together contributors from across Africa and the world to challenge the prevailing depiction of urban life on the continent and redefine cityness, Africa-style. It is a joint creation of Chimurenga and the African Centre for Citiesat the University of Cape Town.
In many senses African cities are amongst the most generative and vibrant places on the planet. Yet, we know next to nothing about what goes on in the places. Not that there is any shortage of caricature, hyperbole or opinion about what makes African cities such quintessential spaces of dystopia and atrophy. We believe that a range of interventions that seek to engage the shape-shifting essence of African cities are long overdue and present this modest initiative as one contribution to a larger movement of imagination to redefine the practical workings of the African city.
For us it is self-evident that one has to take the youthful demographic, informality and a non-conventional insertion in global circuits by African urbanites as a starting point for a sustained engagement and retelling of the city in contemporary Africa. The cultural, livelihood, religious, stylistic, commercial, familial, knowledge producing and navigational capacities of African urbanites are typically overlooked, unappreciated and undervalued. We want to bring their stories and practices to the fore in the African Cities Reader. In other words, the African Cities Reader seeks to become a forum where Africans will tell their own stories, draw their own maps and represent their own spatial topographies as it continuous to evolve and adapt at the interstice of difference, complexity, opportunism, and irony.
In terms of focus, tone and sensibility, the ACR is vibrant, unapologetic, free, accessible and open, provocative, fresh, not take itself too seriously, but also be rigorous and premised on the assumption that it will grow and evolve over time. It is open to multiple genres (literature, philosophy, faction, reportage, ethnographic narrative, etc), forms of representation (text, image, sound and possibly performance), and points of view. The African Cities Reader seeks to embody and reflect the rich pluralism, cosmopolitanism and diversity of emergent urbanisms across Africa. Thus, the ACR invites and undertake to commission writing and art by practitioners, academics, activists and artists from diverse fields across Africa in all of her expansiveness.