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Thursday, October 29, 2020


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Themba Ben Mtwazi

Themba Ben Mtwazi
Spaces of Cultural Resistance: The Contestation Between Tradition and Colonial Housing Typologies in Southern African Townships – Zimbabwe (1894-2005).

My research investigates housing typologies introduced by the dividing policies of colonial segregation. Through an analysis of cities conceived on the basis of ‘colour lines,’ it will explore how colonial architects and planners as agents of empire exercised ideological practices, bringing them to bear upon the practical needs of future occupants. The study will proceed to analyse the impacts of colonial archetypes on the native inhabitants and examine spatialities created during moments contestations between forms and occupant customs. Furthermore, the research will reinvigorate the disengaged discourse, between occupants as social organisms and anti-social industrial housing, developed during emergence of colonial industrial and factory systems. Here, as in other global urban locations, that were/are designed on the basis of segregation to enhance an elite groups power and wealth ; the thesis intends to identify solutions to these marginalised spatialities.

To understand these residential zones of difference; the research will be situated within townships of the former British colony of Zimbabwe. Stifled by inherited housing policy and design, the Zimbabwean government has now been pushed into implementing revisionary approaches, aimed at promoting local engagement and people led planning mechanisms that compensate for omissions in a lack of understanding of African culture. Thus, it is in realisation of this need for indigenous participation and revisionary fervour to rectify the unsuitability of public sector housing, that this research introduces a new perspective of understanding the township condition. It aims to show how the differences between cultural methods of existence and imposed architecture grounded in colonial ideological legislation, needed/need reconciliation to conceive coherent mechanisms that accommodate for changes in postcolonial urbanism.

The study will incorporate a three part enquiry of firstly utilising archival cartography, literary, orthographic and photographic material to study the township’s conception. Secondly, it will deduce/induce through similar sources, an adjacent investigation of recorded observations of Bantu cultural systems, spatial usage and traditional housing types. Thirdly, it will explore how the results of the first two spheres coincide in the township environment. Here, buildings will be examined from a user perspective; through qualitative multi-tactics such as interviews, location/ place centred mapping; photo‐documentation; autoethnographic inscription and observation based notation. Intending that through these experiments, a new understanding of how customary tasks and traditional rituals are exercised in the township will emerge. Simultaneously, the thesis will seek to identify moments of physical confrontation between the two, such as instances of structural dilapidation, rudimentary repairs, demolitions, alterations, decoration and extensions that act as ‘cracks or vacancies’ of self-expression and temporary autonomy.

The study will rely on Dialectics, to formulate a debate between the typologies (thesis) and native traditions (antithesis) to reveal a conclusive synthesis of the township condition. This methodology will employ a critical but equal adoption of both polarities to culminate logical synthesis. Using the dialectic ethos, the study intends to find resolutions that lead to new understandings of underlying politics within everyday urban township occurrences.


Research Degree: PhD, Full-time