Columnists

Turning the hood into paradise

Torn Apart: BOYD PHIRI
IF YOU are one of those who don’t like seeing pickpockets disappear into the darkness of old buildings after snatching your wallet or handbag, news of the redevelopment of some structures around town should be sweet music to your ear.Needless to say, the need for a facelift of some hovels we call buildings does not mean that the entire hood is a village.
But you will agree with me that even the spirit of Broken Hill Man would not rest to see his skull brought back home to an old building for tourism attraction.
I don’t want to scare you, but the truth is, Zambia has been lobbying Britain in the last few weeks to bring back the skull of Broken Hill Man, except that the campaign was not publicised with a hashtag #BringBackOurSkull.
Who would want to come back home from a century-long trip abroad only to find old buildings still standing like the original owners swore to bricklayers they would never demolish them?
Obviously, Broken Hill Man would not miss all the aspects of living in the stone-age era, even if the cost of building materials then did not amount to one’s life-time savings.
I know that, to most of us, living in old structures brings back memories, like how our colonial masters made us live in improved African villages from the old compound set-up.
Nonetheless, whether you live next to an ‘ultra-modern’ shopping mall as people in the hood have come to know them through the local media, some old buildings still make the surroundings look ugly.
In fact, it is their unpleasantness which makes some of the old structures provide shelter for pickpockets and other gangsters.
But don’t try to say this in front of the architects who rubbed shoulders with Broken Hill Man, you will be reminded about why some old buildings are listed as heritage sites.
Apparently, some buildings look abandoned even if they are still being used as office blocks or shops.
Only when you are inside do you get the sense of occupancy. If anything, some landlords appear frozen in time without any idea of climbing to the ‘ultra-modern’ ladder of looking at buildings.
You see, when an area is modernised, ruffians, pickpockets, beggars and street kids feel out of place when they enter them.
This is why you would see street kids and beggars alike conducting their businesses outside the precincts of modern shopping malls.
The only memory some street kids hold for such places is how they used to defecate and seek shelter in some of the old buildings before they were redeveloped.
Like I have shared with you before, a story is told of how security guards at some new buildings are being teased by street kids for not allowing them to loiter there.
“Osatipisha, tenzo nyelapo pano bakalibe kupanga new building iyi,” the street kids would say, meaning “Don’t chase us from this new building, after all we used to defecate at this place before this new building was built.”
Of course, even in the midst of their outbursts towards security guards, they would not dare go there because of being easily set apart by sanity in these new structures.
Certainly, the redevelopment of some buildings will bring sanity to cities and towns which appear to be resisting the blade of civilisation.
Besides, some old buildings have lost their original architectural beauty because of decades of being urinated on by people from the hood. Even Broken Hill Man would not approve of their current status if he were to come back to life.
The real issue, of course, is that property owners need to change with changing times, and that is where I ask some warlords, oh sorry, landlords, in the hood to also redevelop their tiny rented shacks they call houses.
Let’s turn the hood into a paradise, metaphorically, of course.
bjboydphiri@yahoo.com



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