Niamey, the capital of Niger has a rich history with a notable valley
that splits the capital city in half. On the one side, the wealthy
reside, on the other side the poor make do. The city is known for its
Architect Mariam Kamara spoke at Design Indaba 2019, and she caught the
fire from founder Ravi Naidoo who asked her to ponder introspectively on
a project she would execute in the city she happened to call home.
The valley had long served as a source of inspiration to Kamara to
create the concept which she presented as a chunk of her Design Indaba
talk, for an Artisan valley along the river that would bring people
together rather than tear them apart.
With the support of the City of Niamey, Kamara and her team
conceptualized what she expressed as a whimsical promenade that
integrates slots for local artisans to display their traditional
fabrication processes while increasing their economic possibilities, the
project was conceptualized as a large scale permanent installation in
the middle of the city.
The promenade is positioned in a major area of the city not hidden away
such that only tourists could have access. By doing this, local Artisans
contribute a part of the urban landscape as a cultural experience for
Kamara says the use of the site in the day and night time is vital for
the city of Niamey which is desert land, forcing people to stay indoors
in the day and break into the outdoors in the evening time when it’s
The Artisan Valley, she projects, will become a hot spot for locals. The
site will be inhabited by day through the artisans, parks and resting
places will be illuminated at night time to welcome city dwellers
looking for some casual entertainment and socializing.
The Artisan Valley will be up there as one of the safest public spaces
in the city, even though currently the area where this project is
planned is currently unlit, abandoned, and considered dangerous.
Kamara says the project confronts many existing divides in the
architectural landscape of Niger, such as “rural” vs. “urban”, “African”
vs “contemporary”, “local” vs. “western” which she seeks to address.
The local mayor has pledged support and the next stage of the project
will see Design Indaba and Kamara working to raise the funds to make the
Artisan Valley a reality.