Yekepa: Extract and Traces of a West African Utopia
Last year architect Killian Doherty and filmmaker Edward Lawrenson visited Yekepa, a remote new-town in Northern Liberia, designed and built by a mining company prospecting for iron-ore in the late 1950s. Yekepa emerged through the West’s investment in the natural resources of a ‘developing’ Africa to become a built symbol of utopian promise, symbolism that voided local inhabitants claims to ancestral lands and their eventual displacement.
Eventually the iron-ore reserves became depleted and Yekepa fell into disrepair, rendered a ghost town haunted by the memories of past prosperity. Now partly repopulated by workers of another mining firm, Yekepa has returned to life, but its fortunes remain dependent on the global market of iron-ore. Having spoken to past and present residents of Yekepa—both in Liberia and in Sweden—they are making a documentary about the town to chronicle its unusual history and uncertain future.
Introducing a short filmed extracts from this work-in-progress, Doherty discussed the film project and trace, through the colonial architecture of the town, the complex relationship between land, displacement, and the global extractive industries within, and beyond, Sub-Saharan Africa.
Thanks to the Chicago Architecture Foundation for hosting the event.