Shaping and owning African urban narratives through literature, art and movement building

Shaping and owning African urban narratives through literature, art and movement building

Explore how we might achieve social equity and new urban forms in our cities by starting with creative expression, individual and community aspirations, and meaningful participation processes.

What is the role of art, literature, imagery, dance, and voice in drawing attention to, and shaping, urban identities, cultures, lifestyles, aspirations and urban environments? Who are the influencers who can shape new movements for African urban sustainability? How can creative expression and narrative be used as the basis for city and community building? How can storytelling complement scientific approaches for sustainable urban development?

Amid myriad negative urban motifs of African cities, this session tangles with questions of representation, participation and voice in defining African urban narratives, and draws out how celebration can be a valuable approach to reclaiming visions of African cities. The session highlights voices from the creative sphere and how they can or are contributing to shaping and owning urban African narratives using media, literature, photography and artistic expressions.


Quel est le rôle de l’art, de la littérature, de l’imagerie, de la danse et de la voix pour attirer l’attention sur les identités, les cultures, les modes de vie, les aspirations et les environnements urbains et les façonner ? Qui sont les personnes influentes à même de développer de nouveaux mouvements pour la durabilité urbaine africaine ? Comment l’expression créative et les récits peuvent-ils servir de base à la construction des villes et des communautés ? Comment l’approche narrative peut-elle compléter les démarches scientifiques du développement urbain durable ?

Parmi la multitude de motifs urbains négatifs des villes africaines, cette session aborde les questions de la représentation, de la participation et de la voix dans la définition des récits urbains africains, et montre comment la célébration peut être une approche précieuse pour récupérer les visions des villes africaines. La session met en lumière les voix de la sphère créative et la façon dont elles peuvent contribuer ou contribuent à façonner et à s’approprier les récits urbains africains en utilisant les médias, la littérature, la photographie et les expressions artistiques.


Host: ICLEI Africa

Eddie Jjemba

Urban Resilience Advisor, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre

Pato Kelesitse

Founder, Sustain267 Host, Sustain267 Podcast

Lesego Bantsheng

Candidate Landscape Architect, aspiring Urban Designer. Co-founder, Uhuru Heritage

Arthur Adeya

Lecturer, JKUAT; Director, Centum RE; Co-founder, Non-Executive Director, Treasurer Kounkuey Design Initiative

Jean Fall

Founder, Cinewax

Gugu Nonjinge

Senior Advocacy Officer, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR)

Shafic Al Timani

Construction Manager, Head Architect, Food Construction Corporation INC. Founder, Urban Sketchers Liberia

Session Summary

This Africa Day session held space for diverse reflection from artists, creators, practitioners and thinkers. The reflections discussed what African narratives are, how they are contextualised globally, and how we, as Africans, must advocate for a more inclusive and diverse narrative showcasing the expansiveness of African existences and capturing new and innovative ways to marry art and science, towards sustainable future African cities.

The conversation emphasised reclaiming African narratives that are contextually local and resonate globally. These African narratives reach all corners of the globe, including the cities/towns of origin, that show more than the current negative and disabling motifs that plague global platforms. Through art and creativity, more diverse and inclusives narratives are being told especially towards sustainable African futures. All citizens are called to continuously engage their imagination and through storytelling share and show what the future for Africa could be and how we want it to look. Celebrating artistry and creative expression as a way of being and doing, rather than a commodity to be used as part of a production process was emphasized.

In the second half of the session, artists guided us through examples of using creative outlets and art to take a step back and reassess our narratives, reflecting on the validity and basis of our opinions and biases. Taking the time to reflect and reimagine future African cities, including disadvantaged groups in our vision, creates connection and engagement towards a collective future African vision that we can truly envision ourselves within.

This session is thought provoking, breaks down structured thinking and invites you to reimagine and practise dreaming towards creating our collective, diverse and inclusive African future.