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Zahira Asmal narrates a highly personal journey through the obstacles, triumphs and challenges of making place in a developing African City. In a dynamic multi-media presentation, Asmal pulls together the threads of South Africa’s spatial history: colonialism, apartheid, forced removals, migrant labour, the new Afripolitan city. She critiques a development ideology that celebrates modernity, rather than successfully integrating the past into the present. She imagines a pan-African vision, where government, citizens, the diaspora all contribute to the experience of everyday design.

19:30 – 21:30
also this evening

18:00-19:30 Thursday Bite

The museum is free of charge from 17:00-21:00 


Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25
3015 CB Rotterdam


Standard€ 7,50
Students, CJP, Friends and Members of Het Nieuwe Instituut€ 3,75

Zahira Asmal investigates South Africa’s contested history. How has this influenced the making of memories and urban identities? How do people navigate the new democratic city? Who has agency to make place in the country’s biggest metropolis? Asmal takes the audience behind the corrugated iron and razor wire that boards up old spaces in Johannesburg. She bravely invites us to witness her battles with a stubborn municipal bureaucracy. She offers her dreams and hopes for our analysis. This is a unique, intimate and unmissable snapshot of the human aspect embedded within the design process. Zahira Asmals’s journey offers international insights, personal perspectives, and a good dose of optimism.

Zahira Asmal

Zahira Asmal is an urbanist and the director of The City, a research, publishing and place-making agency, she founded in 2010. In her projects, Asmal seeks to enhance the making of public places and spaces in South African cities through engagement and collaboration with governments, cultural institutions, architects, academia, and the public. Her books Reflections & Opportunities and Movement, examine sociopolitical, economic, and cultural environments shaping South Africa’s big cities. Asmal’s current project, See, explores contested urban histories, equal representation in the memorialisation of history and the construction of resilient postcolonial urban identities; Asmal served as advisor to the Africa Architecture Awards in 2017, African Crossroads in 2018 and is currently serving on the Board of Advisors for the International Archive of Women in Architecture.

Thursday Bite

Before the Thursday Night you can grab a bite to eat with the speakers and staff of Het Nieuwe Instituut. At 18:00 Het Nieuwe Café will serve a light vegetarian meal. Dinner vouchers are available for € 7.70 up to a day before the particular Thursday Night event via the Tickets link.

Become a Member

Become a Member of Het Nieuwe Instituut and you’ll support our mission to navigate the vast and evolving field of design. You’ll also be inspired by our special program of Members’ events, meeting up with other like-minded people as we invite you to reflect with us on design’s changing role in technology, economics, culture and society.

Thursday Night at Het Nieuwe Instituut
Luca Napoli

Thursday Night Live! is a weekly programme of lectures, screenings and discussions on architecture, design and digital culture. Developments and critical insights are discussed by thinkers, designers and makers from the Netherlands and abroad.