Swahili Port Cities: The Architecture of Elsewhere

By Prita Meier | Go to book overview

FOUR
At Home in the World
Living with Transoceanic Things

Swahili coast interior design and ornament invites an extended exploration of the meaning of objects when their “life” is shaped by transoceanic circulation. As we have seen in the case of Zanzibar, its modern palaces existed at the intersection of new and old building cultures. Sultan Barghash deployed a multiplicity of forms and technologies to manufacture architectural theaters of triumph and pleasure. His project was part of a larger nineteenth century phenomenon: the desire to transform east Africa’s port cities into strategic sites of imperial power and capitalist modernization. This chapter presents a more intimate analysis of the social lives enacted within the architectural spaces of the Swahili city. I explore the reasons why imported ornament and objects captured the imagination of Swahili coast residents for centuries and how the impact of industrial modernity intensified the local desire to collect things from overseas.


THINGS IN MOTION

People give meaning to objects by arranging them in relationship to other things. The production of meaning therefore has a physical effect on the material environment, since such arrangements change how we experience a particular room or material landscape. When an object comes to rest in a new place it also expresses a new idea or concept.

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Swahili Port Cities: The Architecture of Elsewhere
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - The Place in-between 1
  • One - Difference Set in Stone Place and Race in Mombasa 26
  • Two - A "Curious" Minaret Sacred Place and the Politics of Islam 66
  • Three - Architecture out of Place the Politics of Style in Zanzibar 102
  • Four - At Home in the World Living with Transoceanic Things 139
  • Conclusion - Trading Places 179
  • Appendix 189
  • Notes 191
  • Bibliography 211
  • Index 221
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