365:1 The carnival the the turbine factory
Year: Mtech 1
Function: Event – Carnival
Site location: Zanzibar Port, Tanzania
Institution: University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Brief description of the project:
The Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin categorizes carnivals in four main ways: a space where unlikely groups of people can come together freely; where eccentricities and otherwise unacceptable behaviors are freely permitted; where things that are normally kept apart can be brought together and finally, where sacrilegious events can be expressed without fear of punishment.
Circuses and carnivals play an important role in hybrid cultures, the Brazilian Mardi Gras carnival and the West Indian carnivals being the most famous. These carnivals provide a space in which ideas, truths and beliefs can be tested and contested, often becoming sites of resistance to authority, through their mingling of fantasy and reality, high culture and low and are often places in which potential change can take place.
Zanzibar is a classic example of a truly hybrid culture: its history of trade and exchange over a thousand years has produced a unique blend of ethnicities, languages, religions and architectures. As Dr Muhammad Eddy Juma, the Director of Urban Development in Zanzibar said to us, ‘to be Zanzibari is to be African plus something else. There’s always something else.’
Like many islands, Zanzibar’s port is one of its most important spaces, the literal gateway to Zanzibari life and culture.
This thesis proposal uses the existing port of Zanzibar as the site for an architecture of performance and production: a Turbine Factory and the site of a yearly carnival, bringing two unrelated programmes together to create an architecture of event and an architecture of use. The proposed carnival choreographs the ‘organised chaos’ that is intrinsic to Stone Town’s life. During carnival, the world is turned upside down: locals become strangers; the everyday meets the extraordinary; a place where convention and ‘the way things are always done’ takes a back seat and newness, innovation, breaking the rules and excitement come to the fore. The port ceases to function as a port and the doors to the island are flung open.
The famous line from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ became an important point of departure for the next series of investigations. I call this series The Six Impossible Things. First you see an object at rest, then in motion. An optical illusion results, revealing a third, fourth and even fifth reading of space and motion. When the light goes on, or a switch is pressed, a change takes place: like the yearly carnival, when the set is erected, the power supply switched on and the place fills with people, a new reading of the port emerges where production, performance, import, export, chance and difference come into play.
The project is described in both conventional and unconventional ways where the UAFL Zanzibar Container ship, travelling from Dar es Salaam, arrives at the Zanzibar Port on 12 February, the Day of Revolution in 1964, bringing its festivities of dance and celebration. At this point the cargo ship plugs into the port and offloads mechanically. The formation of containers allow for the unpacking of the carnival equipment and the aisles are transformed into street parades.
The coded sequence drawings are abstract, minimal, ‘intelligent’ layers which show the mechanics behind the magic. These are ‘performance’ drawings, where the performance is rooted in architecture. Alchemy is ‘chemistry of the subtlest kind, which allows one to observe extraordinary operations and a more rapid pace, operations or changes in state that would otherwise require a long time for nature to produce.’ The Zanzibar Carnival is an alchemical space, where magic and mystery combine to make a third space, a public space where ideas, truths and beliefs can be challenged and contested, a site of potential resistance to authority and a place where change may emerge – political, social, cultural or everyday.
Nationality: South African
City and date of birth: Gauteng, Johannesburg, 1991-05-28
Tutors: Prof Lesley Lokko, Craig McClenaghan and Sumayya Vally Author: Sharné Vermeulen