Since its inauguration in 2011, the New City of Kilamba has become one of the most emblematic examples of the Chinese-funded spectacle of reconstruction in post-war Angola. Its tabula rasa urban paradigm has been widely criticised by housing experts in and out of Angola but little is known of its reception by the general population in Luanda. This article retraces the incremental appropriation of Kilamba City by its residents in order to question how the occupation of a new city shapes the relationship between ordinary city-dwellers and the state.
Based on direct observation in Luanda and media monitoring since 2011, the article unveils a multi-faceted reality where residents express at the same time pride and preoccupation, satisfaction and uncertainty. It uses Henri Lefebvre’s notion of ‘production of space’ to suggest that the conundrums of the new city could contribute to the emergence of a democratic moment in Angola.