The ubiquitous white Isuzu truck is packed high with mattresses, construction materials, plastic water containers, or one of many other commodities imported to Merkato from the port of Djibouti.

Two Markets offers fragmented portals into two sub-Saharan marketplaces: Kariakoo in Dar es Salaam and Merkato in Addis Ababa. These spatial practices and social structures perform a certain type of opacity: a strategic concealment against local and global regimes of surveillance. As the latest iteration of an ongoing research project, this work identifies specific nodes of political and spatial intensity. The constellation of images and text are interventions against the finality or completeness demonstrated by imperial grand narratives that claim to make African cities knowable—and their tendencies to either celebrate mid-century European interventions or exoticize notion of ‘informality.’ Two Markets, instead, grapples with the impossibility of having to see through the overbearing shadow of colonialism by frustrating the limits and failures of architectural representation.

In both cases, the urban marketplace is a microcosm of the nation. It presents various aspirations of sovereignty and exceptionalism.
This is precisely why each regime has chosen the marketplace as an ideal site for an explicit materialization of its political agenda.
The colonial fragmentation of the city of Dar es Salaam is registered at the scale of the city block in Kariakoo.

Through an examination of spatial conditions constructed through various forms of occupation and abandonment, we aim to build an archive of collective agency within specific zones of containment. The ideologies have morphed along with the spaces that monumentalized them. Nonetheless, sediments left by previous regimes haunt and configure these two markets and nations, echoing various urban conditions found throughout the continent of Africa. The value systems that were imposed on the land and its Indigenous peoples have been absorbed and weaponized by contemporary metrics of extraction, exploitation and disappearance. From the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, the Mediterranean to the Red Sea: bodies, resources, and landscapes are stolen, undone, and discarded. Within this geopolitical context, African urban marketplaces offer thresholds for rural to urban mobility as alternatives to the dangers of transnational migration. They are built by urban Africans who have decided to stay despite neocolonial entanglements.

Against the representation of African cities as monolithic corrugated roofscapes.
Two Markets Exhibition at the Bayard Ewing Building Gallery in Providence, Rhode Island

Type: Research

Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia & Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Year: 2019

Team: Emanuel Admassu, Jen Wood, Louna Bou Ghanem, Yonas Bereded, Tori Deutch, Maheder Gebremedhin, Keyan Hansen, Peter Heller, Armias Hilemariam, Karin Hostettler, Gweny Jin, Flora Lucas, Kevin Onjiko, Theodore Rweyemamu, Giacomo Sartorelli, Jingru Tong.

Metal Fabrication: Nine and Two Thirds

Photography of Merkato: Zacharias Elias Abubeker

Photography of Kariakoo: Nicholas Calvin

Photography of Exhibition: Erik Guzman

Graphic Design: James Goggin, Practise

Advisors: Rahel Shawl, Dr. Daniel Mbisso

Supported by: The Design Research Seed Fund, RISD Architecture