Studying the construction of railway lines across the African continent is crucial for understanding the logic of land colonisation, the exploitation of people, the extraction of natural resources and the transportation of goods to and from metropolises. The development of quintessential modern transport in Africa at the end of the 19th century had a lasting impact on the landscape, but also on the urban planning of cities and it still plays a role in the mobility of people, goods and ideas today.
During one evening and a day of conferences, researchers and artists will offer alternative views on railway transport in Africa by confronting the diversity of narratives linked to it from a post-colonial and transnational perspective. All these narratives need to be examined in order to understand the scale and complexity of such an undertaking and its human, geographical, urban, political and social consequences. Contributions will not only focus on the past but will also take stock of the present and future of these railway lines—some still in service, others abandoned, some being restored—and of the railway infrastructure.
In the months leading up to the conference, two artists chosen by curator Anne Wetsi Mpoma, will be in residency in Belgium at Wiels and the Africa Museum. During the conference, these artists will share their viewpoints and explain the influence of the railways in their work. By entering into dialogue, artists and researchers will stimulate new approaches to this important aspect of colonial History. A work-in-progress exhibition, created by Professor Johan Lagae, doctoral student Robby Fivez and their students from the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning at Ghent University, will offer a new cartographic reading of mobility based on five railway lines across the African continent. Speakers will be announced in October 2021.
16 03 2022 – Introduction and opening evening – UGent VANDENHOVE
17 03 2022 – Day of case studies and workshops – AFRICA MUSEUM
17 03 2022 - 27 03 2022 - Exhibition – UGent VANDENHOVE
A detailed programme will follow