Architectures of Colonialism Constructed Histories, Conflicting Memories

International Online Conference, 16 to 19 June 2021 BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg

17 June 2021 11:40 Colonial Building Networks

Architecture and the Construction of Colonial Narratives: The South-West Africa Pavilion at the Van-Riebeeck Festival

Jens Wiedow (BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg)

The 1952 Van-Riebeeck Festival celebrated the 300-year anniversary of the landing of Jan van Riebeeck, a Dutch colonial administrator, at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Dedicated to industry’s outstanding contribution to the development of the South African Union, the fair invited provincial regions, industrial manufacturers and international states to exhibit modern showpieces of industrial achievement. Promising to be the greatest industrial show ever undertaken on Africa soil, exceeding the grandeur of the Empire Exhibition of 1936 in Johannesburg, an extensive festival infrastructure was built on 27 acres of reclaimed land at the Cape Town foreshore. South-West Africa, a mandate territory to the Union, was represented in its own pavilion positioned alongside those of the Cape, Natal and Free-State provinces. On display where carefully curated exhibits of African crafts, the development of education and the products of local industry, while a Bavarian-style beer-garden provided refreshments and a “Native” section presented an independent exhibit of “primitive” cultures in SWA. By reading the South-West Africa pavilion as an archive, constructed narratives contrasting the industrial achievements of colonial “civilization” with “primitive” indigenous cultures, the monumentalization of settler history and the reproduction of segregated spatial practices in the design of the SWA Pavilion and its exhibitions are examined, with the aim of uncovering the entangled roles of architecture and race in late colonial architecture.

Jens Wiedow is a lecturer in the Department of Architecture and Spatial Planning at the Namibian University of Science and Technology, and a doctoral candidate at BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, where he is working on a thesis examining the post-war architecture of the Public Works Department in South-West Africa. His interests lie in the intersection of colonialism and modernist architecture in Africa.