Diasporic Entanglements: Between London and Johannesburg
Architect Sumayya Vally and sociologist Denise Lim both utilize multi-sensory and transdisciplinary methodologies to highlight and amplify the stories of people and things—everyday, extraordinary, or otherwise. These complicate the spatial and temporal politics of urban forms in both London and Johannesburg. Here, they engage in dialogue on the resonances between and among architecture and sociology, reflecting on specific case-studies as a means to explore their overlapping methods: Vally’s sociological readings of architectural sites, such as the Pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery in London, and Lim’s architectural readings of sociological sites, such as Ponte City in Johannesburg. Both Vally and Lim explore their own positionalities as women of color with transnational heritage and intersectional identities, and think through how their experiences of living and researching African cities inform the ways in which minority communities can reinvent and experiment with social architectural practice. Vally’s methodologies often draw on the clues of everyday life and ritual as evidence, archive, and imminent design form. Lim’s methodologies underscore how colonial ideology is structurally architected in built forms, and highlight how decolonial modes of inquiry render architecture a powerful modality, amongst many, with the potential to create more diverse, inclusive, and equitable spaces. Visual sociological analysis of several images of immigrant and marginalized communities in London and Johannesburg serve to draw connections between these parallel geographies and practices, and the entanglements between them. Vally and Lim describe their processes on the margins and fringes of their disciplines, and the interfaces between their methods.
Sumayya Vally's design, research and pedagogical practice is searching for expression for hybrid identities and contested territories. Her work is often forensic and draws on the aural, performance, the supernatural, the wayward and the overlooked as generative places of history and work.
A TIME100 Next List honoree and designer of the 20th Serpentine Pavilion (2020/2021), Vally is the youngest architect to be commissioned for the internationally renowned architecture programme. She has recently worked on initiating and developing Support Structures for Support Structures, a new fellowship programme launched at the Serpentine, an initiative which supports and networks artists working at the intersections of arts and ecology, arts and social justice and arts and the archive. Vally is currently serving as the Pelli Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at the Illinois School of Architecture.
Dr. Denise Lim is currently a postdoctoral scholar researching and teaching from the African Collections held at the Stanford University Archaeology Collections (SUAC). Denise has a BA in English and Sociology from Bryn Mawr College, an MA in African Studies, and a PhD in Sociology from Yale University. Denise has worked for over 16 years in the transdisciplinary sociology of diverse African communities, concentrating on southern Africa and the region’s diverse cultural practices.
While at Stanford, Dr. Lim has co-taught a course entitled, The African Archive Beyond Colonization with Dr. Sarah Derbew in the Autumn 2021 quarter where students curated a virtual exhibition featuring 15 of SUAC’s highlight African artifacts spanning from Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Sudan. Dr. Lim will co-teach Museum Cultures: Exhibiting the African Imaginary with Dr. Christina Hodge in the Spring 2022 quarter, where SUAC will continue to work with students to plan, design, and curate an on-site exhibition at the Stanford Archaeology Center featuring materials from the Horn of Africa, including Nubian Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. The on-site exhibition is scheduled to launch on May 27, 2022, with a keynote address given by renowned Swedish-Somali archaeologist, Dr. Sada Mire.
Nicola Brandt is a Namibian-born artist and writer. Her cross-disciplinary work explores the entangled legacies of colonialism and exploitative capitalism and their impact on the environment, identity, and memory cultures she grew up in. Brandt’s work featured as part of intergovernmental talks between Namibia and Germany. She is the author of the monograph Landscapes between Then and Now: Recent Histories in Southern African Photography, Video and Performance Art published with Bloomsbury in 2020. She has contributed to a number of publications including The Journey: New Positions in African Photography (2020), co-edited by Simon Njami and Sean O’Toole. She is the founder and series editor of the artists’ and writers’ residency Conversations Across Place (CaP).
Frances Whorall-Campbell is a writer and artist based in the UK. Their writing on art and culture can be found in Art Monthly, Art-Agenda, and The Architectural Review. They have produced work with Auto Italia, London; Manchester International Festival; Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge; Eastside Projects, Birmingham; Catalyst Arts, Belfast; and the Centre for Contemporary Art Derry~Londonderry, where they are a Research Associate (2021-23). Frances is the curator of the residency and research platform Conversations Across Place, and editor of the associated publication Reckoning with An Entangled World (The Green Box, 2021).