Architecture : A Love Letter to Accra – D. Namata Serumaga-Musisi – Medium

If you want to know whether your city is built for you, take the short walk from Spanner to Accra Mall.

When you are done running, dodging, skipping, let us talk about how cities today are designed to absorb surplus capital [Marxist scholar David Harvey on Intercepted], which means cities are built by the elite for the elite, which means they are not built for you. We build the Circles, the Atomic Junctions, the motorways to carry the vehicled elite from one investment to another; your pedestrian overpasses are an afterthought, inadequate, inconvenient, incomplete.

Let us talk about how you feed this city; how you underpin the economy with your ‘informal’ trade, making this city — that is not yours — functional, flowing between the cracks where this photocopied urbanism did not stick, filling them with pure water sellers at hot, badly designed junctions, soothing them with mobile money kiosks where GCB would not venture. How you innovate (!) without your generators and shock-absorbing, AC’d V8s, almost transcending the gutterless roads, the neglected trotro station, the unreliable power supply. Almost.

Let us look at how, when they no longer have need for you, the native elite will periodically, violently remove you from their sight, you — speck of dust on the fabric of modernity. You are assigned a state of proletarianism — nothing of yours will be accommodated but your labour. They will call your houses informal, your work space informal, your business itself informal, you — informal.

Why would they alienate you, you foundation of the city? Because you, true urban hybrid, are a threat to their surplus capital. They will not invest in your business, they will not invest in your neighbourhood, they will not venture out of their elitist bubbles to offer you, backbone of the city, an equal share of opportunity. They will work to alienate you from access to that opportunity, that capital.

The cities we are building — these emulators of the houses of Western capitalist economy — continue to ignore us, ignore our reality; yet, because we are real, we keep slipping out into the open, seeping through the cracked veneer of modernity [what is that?]. Accra Mall will continue to need workers. Workers will continue to need trotro. Trotro will continue to park at Spanner. Commuters will continue to alight at Spanner. Vendors will continue to be drawn to the commuters. Commuters will continue to run across an unpaved roundabout to get to the mall.

In marginalising you, the elite make you rats, scampering across what is supposedly a fast growing economy. You can not be accommodated. You must be punished. So they will continue to destroy your homes, your workplaces, your businesses, in the meantime building their imported replacements. You will not be accommodated because you are the truth. The marginalized blemish on a parallel — and, without you, unsustainable — ubercity.

And it is you who is building, maintaining, resuscitating this city — this is why you are still here. So, while we still have the chance to think, shift, reclaim… Who is building your cities? Who is defining them?


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