Project Information 

Historically, cities have functioned as sites of production, extraction, subjectification, and subversion. Currently, Sub-Saharan Africa’s population moves within, to, and through cities, turning them into gateways to indeterminate economic, social, and political futures. These sites assume various forms—cities and suburbs; high-rises and informal settlements—shaping the future of solidarity, sociality, and imagination. Despite this, these spaces are poorly understood, with their significance frequently overlooked or underestimated.

Drawing on new survey data, qualitative research and artistic practices in gateway neighborhoods  Madina, Old Fadama, and Jamestown neighborhoods in Accra, Ghana; Kawangware, Kayole, and Ongata Rongai in Nairobi, Kenya; and Berea, Katlehong, and Diepsloot in Johannesburg, South Africa. This project explores how people in fragmented, uncertain, and mobile cities shape their futures and urban spaces. Conceived as a project with interactive web components, installations/exhibitions, and a book, it seeks to encapsulate the diverse and unpredictable nature of these movements. It also acknowledges the tangible but transient material realities that emerge in the aftermath of such movements. 

Inspired by Mercator’s ‘Cosmographical Meditations upon the Creation of the Universe and the Universe as Created,’ this project spans empiricism and speculation, considering the indeterminate future of citizenship, subjectivity, and belonging in Africa’s future cities.

Early atlases were not static collections of maps or the final word on a place’s physical geography. Instead, they were assembled with future trips in mind—bundles of texts and maps stitched together to create an imagined, incomplete future.

This project seeks to unsettle the fixity and hierarchies in conventional atlases, challenging national narratives and the mechanical calculations of demographic theory. While drawing inspiration from the observable world, it reveals hidden aspects of being—where reality meets aspiration. 

Qualitative and ethnographic data, mapmaking practices, soundscapes, and artistic reflections combine to uncover new ways of being and seeing the 21st-century African city. Instead of providing information for a policy or political debate, our Atlas will invite readers to expand their imagination, considering worlds outside of conventional frames. The project captures the continent’s emerging urban realities, exploring new ways of reimagining and representing African urban spatiotemporal journeys. 

Applications should be inspired by the general themes of the project and the neighbourhood but are intended to be looser interpretations. They can draw directly on data or be an abstract departure from the key themes. What is really important for our assessment panel is the write up (or video) of your central idea.