Five Years AAmatters - this is what our partners say:
After five years of hard work, we looked back over our shoulders and realised it was time for a newsletter to give you all an update on where we are. We asked our partners for a few words about us, but this is what they said:
N'Goné Fall - Curator, art critic and policy advisor, trained as an architect (Senegal / France):
‘My first contact with AAmatters was for their Blueprints of Paradise project. It was a challenging and inspiring architecture contest looking at how to better live in African cities. They invited young African architects, designers and artists to rethink and envision the concept of African cities from a creative, innovative and economic point of view. The second project I saw was their collaboration with the architecture college in Dakar, Senegal. Students were asked to propose architectural and design solutions to transform the railway central station in Amsterdam into a more friendly human contact oriented place. Whether it is urban and architecture projects or series of conferences and symposiums, AAmatters has proven to be a critical and cutting-edge organization that truly impacts theory, discourse and practice of architecture and design, thus advancing the concept of creative cities and urban cultures.’
Ola Uduku - Reader in Tropical Architecture and Environmental Design, Director of Research of the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (Scotland / Nigeria):
‘AA Matters is a hard working team of individuals whose output is certainly greater than the sum of their parts! They have had decades of experience in working, experiencing and in being involved in projects across Africa, particularly in East Africa, with a conservation and development focus. AA matters keenly recognises the need to both educate and inform a wider African, but increasingly global public about African contemporary architecture and also its history. The team has achieved this objective through a series of events, including conferences, workshops and projects which have made a significant contribution to our engagement with today’s architectural and urban landscape in Africa. Most importantly they have been successful in publishing AAmatters, a digital resource that has become an essential read for all interested in the broad spectrum that is African Architecture.’
Nicola Colangelo - Entrepreneur and shareholder of Hifadhi Zanzibar (Tanzania):
‘in the event of your 5th birthday I would like to congratulate you for your initiative; there is no doubt in my mind that the only way to progress in Africa is to be fully immersed and knowledgeable about its Culture, Traditions and Technologies developed over the centuries. I also congratulate you for the determination to push on despite strong deviant attitudes visible everywhere in the continent.
And above all for leading, stimulating and help to organize local communities, like Hifadhi in Zanzibar, to protect and preserve their environment and their heritage. I am particularly happy with AAmatters intention to demonstrate that doing good work can also be economically interesting!
I look forward to a bright future for AAmatters and hope to continue participating to some initiatives in the future.’
Lesley Lokko - Novelist, architect and associate professor at the University of Johannesburg (South Africa / Ghana):
‘My first conversation with Berend van der Lans and Dr Antoni Folkers about Zanzibar took place in Nijmegen, the Netherlands (of all places), almost five years ago: impossible at the time to know quite where it would lead. Well, here’s where it led. In March of this year, I travelled with 18 Master’s level students, keen and inquisitive, from the University of Johannesburg to Zanzibar, the first ‘stop’ in a series of three locations around the African continent which present particular contexts for architects: challenging, complex, yes, but also highly creative. It was a first time to Zanzibar for many of the students and we had the great good fortune to meet not only Antoni and Berend, who were in Zanzibar together at the same time, but also Dr Muhammad Juma, Director of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. Whilst the tradition of a field trip to an unknown location or destination has a long history in architectural education, our visit to Zanzibar was unusual in that it combined the ‘shock of the new’ (a long-established creative catalyst) with the sort of in-depth analysis and understanding that only organisations like AAmatters can have. Their generosity in opening their books – literally, from maps to data to analysis to contacts – to us, and their willingness to share their considerable intellect and experience was key in allowing students to understand that it is possible to intervene in complex situations with empathy, creativity and wit. Our trip and the year-long thesis projects it generated are testament to why AAmatters matters. Their tenacity, dedication and interest in African architecture, in all its complexity and at all scales, is unparalleled. So, too, is their generosity, for which 18 students and three tutors are deeply, deeply grateful. Asante sana.’
Abderrahim Kassou – Architect & activist, Casablanca (Morocco):
‘My first meeting with AAM team was several years ago, under the previous form of Archiafrika. This happened in Casablanca during a visit of several architects. I had to guide a tour through several neighbourhoods of Casablanca. Since then, we shared several initiatives, projects, thoughts, dreams, in architecture, culture, heritage, history, future, about the Netherlands, about Casablanca, about Africa, with the same passion, the same faith and the same madness. That first meeting back to five years ago was indeed “the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.’
Joe Osae – Addo, Architect, CEO of ConstructsLLC and chairman of ArchiAfrika (Ghana):
‘How did ‘a poor chap’ from Akropong Ghana get involved in the AAmatters web? That is a long story, but all I can say is that these folks are dedicated, concerned and contribute to the discourse on African architecture (whatever that means). Now that I am in, I support them in 'spinning yarns' as KWAKU ANANSE does, without the trickery. AAM, is the real deal, and they have the results to prove it.’
Sabine Gimbrère, Director of the International Office, City of Amsterdam (Netherlands):
‘What is true in life is also true for international cooperation: one gets nowhere without the right friends and partners. AAmatters has proven to be that indispensable and reliable partner for many in The Netherlands. Working in and with Africa, bridging gaps and overcoming hurdles with stamina and passion, thereby opening up Africa to the rest of the world.’
Paul Morel – Project coordinator and International Affairs Stadsherstel Amsterdam (Netherlands):
‘These guys are terrible! In 2011 I met Berend van der Lans after Stadsherstel Amsterdam organised the international conference Heritage Inc. about private initiatives in the preservation of built heritage. Stadsherstel Amsterdam (Company for City restoration) is a limited liability company, active in the restoration of monumental buildings in and around Amsterdam. Berend did not participate in the conference, since he found the participation fee too high! He then couldn’t ask me for a free entry, since we did not know each other yet. I met him few months later during the visit of the Zanzibar delegation which came back to Amsterdam to know more about the functioning of Stadsherstel after being introduced to it during Heritage Inc.. Berend seemed to be a nice guy, who knew quite a lot about Africa and especially Tanzania and Zanzibar.
Muhammad Juma, Director of the Department of Urban and Rural Planning of the Government of Zanzibar, asked us to work together on the establishment of a company based on the Stadsherstel principles in Stonetown Zanzibar. Stadsherstel Amsterdam confirmed their interest and started working with Berend and of course Antoni Folkers entered the scene as well.
Also a nice one, but together these guys are terrible. It results in return trips to East Africa in a maximum of 4 days, they email you day and night, and when you answer they respond immediately. 'No time to rest, we are in a hurry, we must redevelop heritage and improve the conditions for the inhabitants’. Meanwhile they are mapping somewhere else and maintaining their network all over the world.
Well, beside my daily work on Stadsherstel, this was quite an additional job. And still is, because we match very well together. Stadsherstel (Hifadhi) Zanzibar is established - we couldn’t imagine that in 2011 - and still going strong. That’s why I also love these guys. I wish them a lot of success in the next 5 years, and hope we will work together for a long time!’
Immanuel Sirron-Kakpor - architect and planner (Ghana / Netherlands):
‘On behalf of the entire team of Sirron-Kakpor Architects, we extend our congratulations to AAmatters for completing 5 glorious years of success. You have always been on the top of all for serving Africa and Europe with your unselfish services.
AAmatters has been very instrumental in the development of my personal architecture career. Even before AAmatters was establishment five years ago, I had access to its fully equipped library with books on the African Modern Architecture movement, Vernacular African architecture and more. But above all, I am grateful for your assistance to other students and myself during my studies to become a better architect and give me the right background for the African condition.
In short AAmatters has been a formidable foundation and stepping-stone for me in the field of Architecture and Urban Design in Africa.
Congratulations from all of us for your wonderful journey of 5 years of success and we hope for the same for the future also. We hope AAmatters reaches to new heights in the coming years.’