From nomads to deforestation, this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale focuses on Africa and the impact of colonisation on the development of a continent undergoing the most rapid urbanisation in the world. Away from the national pavilions, the main exhibition put together by Biennale curator Lesley Lokko shines a light on the enduring impact of the colonising Europeans who upended traditional ways of life. Video Player is loading.This is a modal window.HLS playlist request error at URL: https://stream.unibots.in/ad884925-e293-4c09-aba3-c239cd5ec5b6/playlist.m3u8. Close PlayerUnibots.inThis is a modal window. This modal can be closed by pressing the Escape key or activating the close button.Reloading Source.. Close Player Mounir Ayoub, a 40-year-old Tunisian architect based in Geneva, has long been interested in the phenomenon in Tunisia of forced settlement. Before being colonised by France in 1881, the North African country of his birth “was mostly a country with a nomadic population – 600,000 nomads and 400,000 sedentary (settled) people”, he told AFP. But through his collection of photos, documents and video testimony from the few remaining nomad families, he argues that France initiated a policy that eventually left the Tunisian desert depopulated. “The desert was not empty, it was a rich ecosystem with a huge culture. The desert was populated, it was a place of immense civilisation,” he told AFP at the exhibition at Venice’s former shipyards. But “France created new cities with oases where water was extracted deep in the desert in order to settle the nomads, to control them, in fact, to start setting up borders”, said Ayoub. The policy continued even after Tunisian independence in 1956, he said, with Tunisian nomads definitively settled by the 1970s and 1980s. Pointing to places on a map that he said once teemed with life, he lamented that “now there is almost nothing left… even though the whole of Arab civilisation comes from the desert and nomadism”. The end of nomadism was a cultural loss but also an environmental one, as the travelling families had “a minimal impact on the environment”, said Ayoub. The exhibit includes a nomadic tent – “organic architecture in the first sense of the word: goats, sheep and camels provide hair that is woven into tents”. – No return to ‘pure state’ – The number of cities in Africa has doubled since 1990, with their combined population increasing by 500 million people, according to the African Development Bank. But urban and economic growth has been not only at the expense of Africa’s vast deserts but also the continent’s forests. Sammy Baloji, a photographic artist from Lubumbashi, a city in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo, charted the depletion of his country’s rainforests in his project for the exhibition. He says the process began with Belgium’s rule over his country, as part of a colony also including Rwanda and Burundi, when traditional methods of cultivation were abandoned in favour of intensive agriculture.