The Postcolonial Rural Foyer

Rural Foyer


Kibandu Pello-Esso

In many African rural sites, not only is the present heavily informed by, among other things, postcolonialism and the cold war leading to the intensification of urbanization; but also the orientation from agrarian lifestyle toward modern modes of education and social mobility. Rural impermanence has become a condition many favor over permanence in order to create better future prospects. In a postcolonial West African context, spatial studies through antropology or other disciplines have put heavy emphasis on the urban context, leaving the rural with poorer renderings. My interest in this typology of site should not be seen as an attempt at renewing provincialism or a return to the ethnic in the arts; but rather as a questioning of the dichotomy between rural and urban settlement in determining implications on ecologies, subjects and the social.[1]

As a case study, I have decided to look into a project in Togo, a rural foyer that has been implemented in the village of Kuma Dunyo since 1960. The post- independence era in most West African nation states has predominantly been marked, transformed and informed by non-governmental organizations, AID programs and other international programs deciding who lives and who dies.2 This is mainly due to poor government investment in the social and a negligence of the rural in favor of the urban. My case study is an entrance into the site. I see this rural foyer as a starting point to approach subjects, in order to disclose how the site is making and unmaking itself; and thereby highlight some of the means through which locals are intervening on the site. Comparing to other NGOs in the region, I found this particular case a source of interest since it has been a project initiated and constructed by the locals, together with a Swedish-Togolese organization that is still the main contributor to the project. The main purpose of this rural foyer could be seen as an exercise in managing the question of permanence/ impermanence. The methods inscribed in the project in its beginning intended to deploy agriculture, culture and education as tools for managing and resisting depopulation. Throughout its 60 years of existence, the center has accumulated archives and other useful tools that could assist in grasping the transformations occurring on the site: transformations in this case meaning the loss of “traditions” and other means imperative to rural life.


[1] Paolo Gaibazzi, “I’m Nerves!”: Struggling with Immobility in a Soninke Village (The Gambia) (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publ., 2010), 106-137.
[2] Charles Piot, Nostalgia for the Future: West Africa after the Cold War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).