6 November 2012

Tanzania: Young, but Far From Restless in London

John Paul, Wetaka Dickson, Bahati Zongo, Emmanuel Gamassa and myself Badaru Comfort; all part of the editrorial team of ANZA magazine travelled to London from Dar es Salaam courtesy of British Council - London.

The group represented Tanzania at the London Festival of Architecture in the United Kingdom. The festival took place between 12th and 23rd September 2012. ANZA magazine is a bi-annual publication and was established last September and covers architecture in East Africa. On the night of September 11th this year the team set off with our hearts were filled with prayer (considering the coincidence of the date of travel).

Ten hours later, we arrived safely at Heathrow airport In London encountering a temperature of 8 degrees celsius, a whooping 20 degrees difference from the temperature we had left in Dar es Salaam. We dashed through the countless escalators, stopped at the stores to purchase sim cards and travel cards for public transport and then made our way to the underground train; a rather dramatic initiation into the London way of life.

We had two meetings set up for the day so we had to move faster than we had imagined. It was all about keeping time. We took a train, right up to the Kings Cross station; 40 minute train ride from Heathrow airport terminal for our first stop. We checked into Generator Hostel, as fast as we could and dashed off to our first appointment. We arrived at Allies and Morrison, an architectural firm we were welcomed by Emilie Lemons, on behalf of Allies and Morrison, and Lauren Mckirdy, on behalf of our hosts the British Council, London.

After a brief introductory meeting our next appointment was at the British Council office. Returning to Allies and Morrison we reviewed the work plan and set up our working space. The following day, Wednesday, we were up early, grabbed our maps and headed straight to work. However, if you ever thought rush hour scenarios were only found in Dar es Salaam, you ought to think again. When we got to the underground station, and down to the tubes common name for the train) we encountered a typical daladala situation where we were packed liked sardines.

The underground services are the most common means of travel in London. We spent half the day at the office and at about 2.00 pm we went out to the field to carry out part two of our time in London, "Tracing East African Footsteps in London". We went to Southhall, West London and found a number of Tanzanians, Kenyans and Ugandans. We were pleasantly surprised to find a joint, called Africana Restaurant and Take Away serving East African delicacies. The restaurant is owned by a Kenyan named Mohammed, without any hesitation we ordered nyama choma. Stuffed by the end of the meal we were glad to have passed by.

On Friday14th September we arrived at the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) journal offices and were welcomed by the editor, Hugh Pearman. This particular visit was definitely a highlight for us. The RIBA journal has been in existence since 1834, so we got first hand information from a magazine very much like ours. We were humbled and at the same time so adrenalized. We made a great connection beyond business and friendship. On our way back to the office, we took a detour and saw a bit more of London.

Our first stop was at London Bridge over River Thames, opposite Tower Bridge. We saw beautiful and famous buildings around London, like the Shard and the Gerkin. We then took one of the famous double decker London buses back to the office. As soon as we got back, we set up for the presentation, Video Diary 1. The turn up was great. The video produced by Paul Bomani also of ANZA magazine captured views of Dar es Salaam people in regards to the City.

Most of the interviewees were casual workers. The audience found this very interesting. The event ended with drinks and snacks as people interacted and got to know more about Anza. As the first week came to an end and we were glad we achieved so much. We made the most of the evenings celebrating each day's success by treating ourselves to some franchise restaurants like Nandos, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Despite the fact that it was going to be a working weekend, we went out to get a sneak peek of London at night. We had set our minds out to it and nothing was going to get in our way, not even the unpredictable London weather put us off. The best part about having a working weekend is that we had a movable office. So in the quest to create the third issue of our magazine we visited the Architectural Association school bookshop to get some inspiration.

The team then split into two, some went to East London to trace more East African footsteps while the rest went to the office to work on the magazine as the print day was drawing closer. On Sunday, we went to the British Museum where most of Great Britain's history is kept and worked at one of the cafes for the rest of the day. At about 3.00pm, we called it a day and we all went our separate ways for personal experiences of London.

On Monday, all activities were in the office as the magazine was scheduled to go to the printers the following day. Needless to say, we did get to take a lunch break and walked to the Tate Museum another famous building in London, This museum was a power house turned into a museum filled with galleries and tonnes of space for peformances by artistes, musician and the like. On Tuesday the magazine finally went to the printers at noon and we finally had a real London shopping experience.

All roads and rails seem to lead to Oxford Street, this is the one place where you are surrounded by as many designer stores you can imagine. It's almost as wide as the Mwenge - Ubungo stretch and it is caters for all pocket sizes. On Thursday, our second highlight was the live stream at '100 percent design'. During the live stream, we were connected by video to Dar es Salaam in real time (12.00 pm in Dar and 10.00am in London).

The theme was "Past, Present and Future Architecture". Tanzanian architects like Anthony Almeida, Beda Amuli, Epitome Architects and Ardhi University students and lectures were invited to New Africa Hotel in Dar es Salaam where they were discussed the theme while interacting with the London audience made up of members of the general public interested in architecture. On Friday, 21st September the third issue of our magazine was released.

The printers Pureprint Group delivered the magazines at Allies and Morrison. In the evening guests started arriving and the event kicked off. We had a great turn up that included the Deputy High Commissioner of Tanzania to the United Kingdom the many people who supported us while we were in London, the general public and of course friends and family.

It was a very lively and memorable event and at the end of it all, we tossed to the victory and said, "it is finished". At dawn on Sunday morning the team headed to the airport. Reminiscing on the priceless time and memories of London, all were filled with gratitude for British Council, London for the opportunity and filled with pride at the success of the project.

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