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African Geographical Review
Volume 28, December 2009

 

Field Note

“Memorials More Enduring Than Bronze”: J. H. Sinclair and the Making of Zanzibar Stone Town

Dean Sinclair (Northwestern State University, USA)

Abstract:
Designated as a World Heritage site, the urban landscape of Zanzibar Stone Town represents an amalgam of African, Arab, Indian, and European elements.  This field note explores the European element in the urban fabric of Zanzibar, specifically the pivotal role of one colonial official, John Houston Sinclair, in the creation of Zanzibar Stone Town.  Sinclair designed numerous structures in Stone Town and beyond during his years in Zanzibar, from 1899 to 1923, and also played a crucial role in the development of a comprehensive plan for the city.  In post-colonial Africa, Sinclair's role in the drive to Europeanize the African cityscape raises problematic issues associated with identity, authenticity, landscape valuation, and preservation of Zanzibar.

Key words: John Houston Sinclair, urban planning, world heritage, Zanzibar stone town