Friday, June 22, 2012

ABIDJAN a thought on the naming of new towns...

Abidjan is the colonial capital of Côte d'Ivoire and the country's largest city. In 1933 a port was built and the new city grew.

According to oral tradition of the Ebrie as reported in the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Côte d'Ivoire, the name "Abidjan" results from a misunderstanding. Legend states that an old man carrying branches to repair the roof of his house met a European explorer who asked him the name of the nearest village. The old man did not speak the language of the explorer, and thought that he was being asked to justify his presence in that place. Terrified by this unexpected meeting, he fled shouting "min-chan m'bidjan", which means in the Ébrié language: "I just cut the leaves." The explorer, thinking that his question had been answered, recorded the name of the locale asAbidjan. Wikipedia of course. 

Is this true, and what is involved in the process of naming a New Town? In Milton Keynes, the name was that of the smallest village surrounding the new town centre in order to avoid competition between the largest dwellings in the region. Shenzhen means "deep drains", a descriptive title of the cities geography which used to be a delta with streams and rivers throughout - that was before the bulldozers arrived and reclamation began. Thamesmead launched a competition in the Sunday Times to suggest names for the new town. One of the suggestions, New Wooabbeleri became the title of artist Stuart Whipp's project of 2011.

What does a name designate? How does a population relate to the name of town in which they live? Does choosing the name of the small hamlet that once stood in the new town's place offer some kind of panacea to the lack of material heritage in a new city? 

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