By Edgar Pieterse & Ntone Edjabe
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And that’s how he makes that capital gain, in this case, work for him. He gains in social prestige by investing in social capital. In order to survive in the city, you have to do the same thing. You have to constantly make sure that you create and invest in certain networks, which are no longer the network of the household, maybe, or of your ethnic group or your village, but different kinds of associations, different kinds of groups of cooperation - maybe a gang, maybe all kinds of groups. But you African Cities Reader 30 Urbanism beyond Architecture: African Cities as Infrastructure Vyjayanthi Rao, in conversation with Filip de Boeck & Abdou Maliq Simone constantly have to invest, you constantly have to be present, constantly have to exchange, constantly be “in touch” with others.
Initially, sape had me stumped: why was it, I asked myself, that people who have exceedingly little choose to forego food in order to acquire and appear in public in costly designer clothes? Wherefore this fascination – this obsession, it seemed to me – with elegance? To what ends the competitions I witnessed between crews of sapeurs (the name that adepts of the practice give themselves)? How does this all work, for sape is more than clothes worn and Fashion competition in Bandalungwa / Kinshasa / aug 2003 (Photographs, Ken’s Mukendi) African Cities Reader 41 Sape Project Jean-Christophe Lanquetin displayed; it is also clothes exchanged, bought, sold, smuggled and (sometimes) copied: a vast economy, monetary of course, but also implicitly political, social, symbolic and emotionally deeply fraught.
AMS: I agree. As part of this New School grant, there has been this project in Douala for the past eighteen months. One piece of that was to have a working group of young, middle-class kids in a middle-class area of Douala, Bonamoussadi. They meet once every two weeks for eighteen months. This notion of invisibility was something that was on their minds as well. It was a word that was used, it was a concern that they had, it was a very particular kind of concern because these are middle-class kids.
African Cities Reader by Edgar Pieterse & Ntone Edjabe