if African cities
by Jenny Doubt
if African cities were composed of sentences then they would need verbs shaped like dalladalla buses, sweatpacked with people and their packages moving to and from their days; trucks carrying goods over landscapes, connecting heaving metropoli to each other and to the ports that wade through and trade wealth; mine shafts that carry workers into pits of gold and diamonds; feet that join distended families.
they would need adjectives that point skyscrapers into height, corrugated tin roofs into width, peanuts and airtime vouchers into smaller and smaller depths and the cost of living into greater lengths.
their subjects would be as wiley, creative resilient, resourceful, changeable, determined, destitute, settled, transient, alone, peopled, labored and hard-working as the cities big and small that the continent has to offer.
if cities were composed of sentences then their commas would join thoughts and expressions to their attendant lives and experiences; their semicolons would plot chinese characters on trucks whose forks dig deep into Tanzanian roadside earth alongside the trendy sushi habits of the South African political elite.
and if we look at how African cities are described in sentences these days, a new zeitgeist appears to emerge: African cities appear as conference papers, advertise speaker topics, herald new book titles, decorate the glossy, full-bleed pages that populate bookshop displays in cities whose names are international brands – New York, London – whose indigenous citizens fiercely declare their belonging as New Yorkers, as Londoners and whose tourists advertise their consumption of these places through the black, white and red of an ‘I love New York’ t-shirt.
if African cities were described through their demonyms, what would they declare of a Lagosian? a Nairobian? an Alexandrian?