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Report: Conference « Looking for and learning from public spaces in African cities »

Date: February 21, 2019, 10am-4pm

Location: Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, UniLag

On Thursday 21st of February 2019, IFRA-Nigeria organised a one-day conference at the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development (UniLag) themed on “Looking for and Learning from public spaces in African cities”. This event was designed and organised by Pauline Guinard (ENS Paris), Emilie Guitard (IFRA Nigéria), Clémentine Chazal (IFRA Nigéria), Julien Migozzi (ENS Paris), Chrystel Oloukoï (Harvard University) et Ismael Maazaz (University of Edinburg). The conference was financially supported by ENS-Paris, IFRA-Nigeria, the Laboratoire LAVUE (CNRS/Paris Nanterres University), the French Institute in Nigeria, the Fonds d’Alembert (Institut Français) and IFAS Johannesburg (CNRS/MEAE), it benefitted as well from the logistical support of the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Develpoment at UniLag.

The conference was divided into three roundtables which gathered academics, artists and urban actors coming France, Belgium, the USA, DRC Congo and Nigeria.

This first roundtable “Arts and Public Spaces” focused on the part of arts and artists in representing or even inventing publicness in African urban contexts. The participants Pr. Filip de Boeck (anthropologist, Leuven University, Belgium), Dr. Pauline Guinard (geographer, ENS Paris) et Polly Alakija (artist and president of the Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture, Nigeria) discussed how art can contribute to the making of contemporary African public spaces and evoked the interconnectedness between arts and urban spaces in different cities such as Lagos, Kinshasa and Johannesburg). This first roundtable was moderated by Dr. Emilie Guitard.

The second roundtable themed on “Urbanity and Public spaces” and moderated by Ismael Maazaz, approached public spaces as spaces where urbanity, that is the relation between the city and its urban-dwellers, is invented. The stakeholders - Dieudo Hamadi (documentarist and movie-maker, DRC-Congo), Andrew Esiebo (photographer, Nigeria) and Taibat Lawanson (urbanist and associate professor at UniLag, Nigeria) – exchanged viewpoints on the role of public spaces in the production of ‘cityness’ and questioned the place occupied by African public spaces in the making of the feelings of belonging to the city.

Finally, the third roundtable of the day was themed “Afro public spaces times” and moderated by Chrystel Oloukoï. The roundtable gathered Qudus Onikeku (choreographer, founder and Artistic Director QDanceCenter Lagos), Onye Ozuzu (choreographer, dean of the school of the Arts, University of Florida - Gainesville, USA), Papa Omotayo (architect, Whitespace Creative Agency, Lagos) and Dr. Saheed Aderinto (historian, Western Carolina University, USA) to discuss the peculiarities and potential commonalities of public spaces in African and Afro-descendant contexts. They debated whether those specificities of urban public spaces in Africa could fuel inspirations, or even future models, in other urban contexts.

This conference gathered about 90 people. The audience was diversed and composed of academics, students but also artists and urban actors from Lagos. Among them, we can highlight the presence of the French Consulate M. Polonceaux and the German Vice-Consulate Mrs. Alexandra Herr.

The conference was taking part within a wider Masterclass programme on a similar theme “Researching public spaces in Africa” which was held from 19th to 28th of February. Therefore, 5 French students from ENS-Paris as well as 10 Nigerian students from UI, UniLag, ABU Zaria and Makurdi also attended the event.

2019 02 21 conference public spaces African cities 1

Opening of the conference with the Welcome Address by Pr. Timothy Nubi
(Founding Director of the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development)

2019 02 21 conference public spaces African cities 2

Opening of the conference with the Welcome Address by Dr. Elodie Apard (Director of IFRA-Nigeria)

2019 02 21 conference public spaces African cities 3

First roundtable “Arts and Public Spaces”, from left to right:
Dr Pauline Guinard (ENS-Paris), Pr. Filip De Boeck (University of Leuven), Polly Alakija (Lagos Art Council) and Dr. Emilie Guitard (IFRA-Nigeria)

2019 02 21 conference public spaces African cities 4

Professor Filip De Boeck presenting its work on Kinshasa with artist Sammy Baloji

2019 02 21 conference public spaces African cities 5

Third Roundtable “Afro Public Spaces-Times”, from left to right:
Qudus Onikeku (QDance Centre), Onye Ozuzu (University of Florida), Dr. Saheed Aderinto (University of Western Carolina), Papa Omotayo (WhiteSpace Creative Agency) and Chrystel Oloukoi (Harvard University)

 

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