Afrocentric placemaking and architecture in contemporary urban built form: a case of Bulawayo’s civic precinct, Zimbabwe
Mthethwa, Majahamahle Nene.
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Inspired by Afrocentrism ideologists such as Molefi Kete Asante (2007), the researcher advocates for non-dominance of one community by any other, as this has created problems across sub-Saharan Africa. The social phenomenon of internal colonialism thrives on cultural authoritarianism that the ruling elites or dominant social groups accentuate through the built environment. This study explored collectively accepted makings of Afrocentric sources that would inspire Afrocentric placemaking and architecture in contemporary urban built form and promote social equality, justice and a sense of belonging. The study of these Afrocentric sources would motivate architects to design contemporary local built environments that respond to African value systems. The study focused on the Mthwakazi Nation’s historic capital, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. A mixed method approach was adopted, with a qualitative method applied generally and a quantitative one locally. Special consideration was given to concerns such as African cosmological orientation, culture and identity that pivoted indigenous legal, political, governance and economic institutions. This enabled a narration of precolonial built forms. Various concepts and theories such as placemaking, social identity, symbolic interaction theory, Afrocentricity and existential theory were drawn on to explore the possibility of contemporary architectural design and urbanism that captures the African worldview. Given their ability to exhibit identity phenomena, the focus was civic spaces and buildings. International precedents such as the Sydney Opera House and its linkage to the Bennelong House in Australia, which demonstrate the extent to which Australia has taken on the mantle of European culture and the significance of historical events as a source of inspiration in urban placemaking. Symbolic interactionism evokes indigenous ecological features to encourage creation of locally responsive built Page | viii environments. The Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature is presented in this study as a typical example. Built forms and parallel historical developments were examined from the precolonial, to the colonial and postcolonial periods to identify appropriate Afrocentric sources for contemporary placemaking. In Zimbabwe, Shona traditional built forms were anchored by Great Zimbabwe while King Lobengula’s historical settlement of koBulawayo reflects amaNdebele architectural developments that date back to KwaZulu. Both kinds of traditional settlements provide indicators to Afrocentric sources for envisaged strategies in placemaking and architecture in African cities. To the African mind circularity and movement capture what the cosmos represents. Movement is rhythmic, regular and seasonal. With respect to symbolic interactionism, circularity and movement is how the cosmos reflects itself to an African mind; hence the criticality of organic and rhythmic motion in his/her art and architecture. The study contends that the Collective Centred Afrocentric Placemaking (CCAP) knowledge model is to assist the conceptualisation of Afrocentric placemaking and architecture in contemporary urban built form and thus create an authentically existential sense of belonging in African cities.