DAILY MAVERICK | J Brooks Spector
Daily Maverick intern Puseletso Nthate assisted in researching this article.

A few years back, travelling around Madagascar, I came across a giant – albeit down-at-the-heels – sports stadium in the capital city, Antananarivo. Since this construction seemed more substantial than practically every other building in the city, and because it looked nothing at all like any still-remaining examples of colonial French-style architecture that were part of the city’s heritage, the origin of the massive stadium was a bit of a puzzle.

Querying people in the area, with a mixture of French, English and even a few words of the local language, it was explained to me this structure had been a kind of “gift” from North Korea. Ah, of course. Over the years, one of the hereditary communist hermit kingdom’s more unusual activities globally has been dispatching architects, construction and mechanical engineers, and construction battalions to erect a whole panoply of modernist monstrosities, all built in a particular brutalist style, often in unlikely spots. In addition to the buildings themselves, there has also been a steady stream of those Stalinist-style-more-than-life-size heroic public art statues of presidents, freedom fighters …read more

Photo on left | Independent Memorial Museum in Windhoek | Photo by Wikimedia Commons              Photo on right | North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un observing a multiple rocket launching drill. Photo released by Rodung Sinmun