The dominance of the novel and cinema declined with the African economic downturn of the 1980s. Now, more popular emergent genres that are amenable to the resultant paucity of funds, have come with more compelling re/presentations reflective of contemporary rural-urban living on the continent.
This panel seeks to discuss the representations of cityscapes in marginal/minority genres of arts in Africa. Rural-urban drift in the continent has reshaped African literature and performances, given that the cities are populated with peoples of diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Each city thus becomes a container of histories, a celebration of the rich texture of human experience; what Samuel Johnson calls "school for studying life". Mainstream arts - novels, films and the likes have been largely interrogated for their portraiture of Africa's urban/rural realities but marginal arts. These minority genres also re/present the daily encounters, relationships and the numerous complexities of humans versus machines, as well as other innumerable conflicts of identities (of gender, class, belief, social status, location, ethnicity) that form part of everyday living in the continent. They are also concerned with the overwhelming effect of industrialization on individuals; the city as a materialist spectacle and receptacle for the past, hidden lives and passions of its inhabitants, among others.
Arnold Weinstein (2007) identifies several themes that appear in artists' rendering of urban-rural living: orientation (people finding their way in the city); the marketplace (exchanging goods and services); anonymity, experiencing solitude or freedom; encounters (fearing or choosing connections with others); history (maintaining contact with other times); and cultures, entering the cities ever-changing cultural forms. How do any of/all these theme(s) play out within understudied African art genres like stand-up comedy, carnivals, new cinema, contemporary dance, music videos, performance in religion, games - especially followership of foreign club football, etc.