Filip De Boeck
Divining the City: Urban Planning and
Everyday Life in Central Africa

Lumiar Cité, Lisbon

Sammy Baloji / Filip de Boeck

Lecture Filip De Boeck Divining the City: Urban Planning and Everyday Life in Central Africa, 2014

The presentation reflects upon the draining rhythms of Central African cityscapes. Urban dwellers have to make constant efforts to overcome the city’s disorder and its ensuing ambiguities. The city forces them to engage in an almost daily ‘divinatory’ act of trying to guess the meanings that lay hidden within the fluid parameters of urban life, of unveiling the city’s unreliability, of steering clear of its many unpredictable events, of cruising unscathed throughout the day, and of making sense of one’s own pathways of adversity or luck. This daily labour is often structured around the activity of ‘searching’ (Lingala: koluka), a term commonly used by urbanites to describe their daily quest for food, money, jobs, contacts and opportunities. Although one can easily lose oneself in this often desperate ‘searching’, it simultaneously involves the interpretive capacity or possibility to discover and grasp opportunities in the gaps that invariably open up between, or even within, things, events and persons.

Filip De Boeck is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Leuven, Belgium. He has conducted extensive ethnographic research in both rural and urban communities in D.R. Congo since 1987. His book publications include ‘Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City’, with photographer Marie- Françoise Plissart (Leuven University Press, new edition 2014) and ‘Makers and Breakers: Children and Youth in Postcolonial Africa’, co-edited with Alcinda Honwana (James Currey, 2005). Together with co-curator Koen Van Synghel, he presented an exhibition about Kinshasa at the Belgian Pavillion of the Architecture Biennial in Venice (2004), for which they received a Golden Lion, and he also co-curated an exhibition around the work of Congolese artist Bylex for the Royal Flemish Theatre (KVS) in Brussels (2008). In 2010, De Boeck released ‘Cemetery State’ (FilmNatie), a documentary about a Kinshasa graveyard. He is currently doing research on new urban extensions in various cities across the African continent. Together with photographer Sammy Baloji, he is preparing a book on the subject.

The lecture will be in English and takes place in the context of Ângela Ferreira’s exhibition Indépendance Cha Cha, which runs until 01.06.2014.

This project has been developed in partnership with the EDP Foundation and in collaboration with Africa.Cont. Our thanks also to Culturgest for their kind support during the production of the exhibition.


Avenida António Augusto de Aguiar, 148 - 3º C
1050-021 Lisboa, Portugal
Monday to Friday, 10h00 to 13h00,
14h30 to 19h00

Tel: + 351 21 352 11 55


Independent Study Programme
Call 2023
Until 04.09.2022


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Registration is free but limited to the number of seats available. Please send an email with a short CV to admin@maumaus.org by 24.03.2022. Confirmation of registration will be sent by email. The seminar will be in English.

Lumiar Cité

Rua Tomás del Negro, 8A
1750-105 Lisboa, Portugal
Wednesday to Sunday, 15h00 to 19h00
or by appointment.
Tel: + 351 21 755 15 70

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Closed 24, 25, 31 December and 1 January

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Maumaus/Lumiar Cité is funded by República Portuguesa – Cultura/Direção-Geral das Artes. With the support of Câmara Municipal de Lisboa and Junta de Freguesia do Lumiar

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