You had just checked your phone and noticed that it was on a Friday morning when the text came in. It was the morning your friend, Grayla suggested that you two go gallivanting the soon-to-be opened Mukuba Shopping Mall in Kitwe when it opened. Kitwe was the town you were bred in but had since relocated from to settle in Solwezi in the pursuit of the Zambian dream.
You knew it and she knew it too, this was no ordinary invitation. This was an invitation between old friends to catch up and reminisce; the time to talk about the lost years.
It had after all been tradition for you both to gallivant through the town centre’s watchmaker shops like SWIZAM and boutiques alike. A passion for nice watches was what you shared, or you would sit down to criticise the architecture in the town centre over lunch at either Pie City or Food Palace; the snack bars whose food you preferred, back when you were both in Architecture School.
You did everything together before; you went on nights out together where you had introduced her to your friends and her, you to her friends as Kapalu – your surname – because she failed to pronounce your forename, Ngonga, and you got drunk together. You walked to class together and you walked back from class together but you don’t do anything together anymore. Unless of course, the occasional phone calls and texts, like a few weeks ago when you called her to suggest some architectural and design articles which you had come across online.
You now lead separate lives. Grayla is in a relationship with one of your friends now and you’ve since settled all the way over in a different town.
You had used most of that conversation arguing about the opening date for Mukuba Shopping Mall and about what stores would be opened first. You had told her that you had heard that Shoprite Checkers would be, but she had argued that she had read in one of the print advertisements that Woolworths and Pep stores would be.
In that minute, you had wondered what you two would do at the Mall. You probably would buy and enjoy a few lagers from Pick ‘n pay – a supermarket rumored to be opening at the Mall, and sit down somewhere while you both criticised the design of the mall especially that it was rumored to have been designed by Z+ Urban Planners, a firm in which Dr. Maramba, one of your former lecturers whom you held in high regard was a partner. Or you would visit American Swiss – a watchmaker shop, or you would go to Game Stores – a first in Kitwe, or maybe gallivant the high end boutiques such as Legit or Woolworths or Markham or Foschini or Exact or Identity or Truworth – all rumored to be opening at the Mall.
You had only snapped back to reality when your phone buzzed with a call from Mr. Chanda, a client who at the direction of your boss had wanted to know if the drawings which you had been commissioned to do a week before had been completed – you had only started working on them a day before.
You still weren’t sure about the opening date, and you being in a different town didn’t help of course because you only knew what you either heard about from your friends and family in Kitwe or read about in print media, and there was already conflicting debate on this topic by the public.
Most people were excited about the city’s maiden shopping mall. You had noticed this excitement a couple of weeks before when you had passed through Kitwe from Livingstone on your way back to Solwezi. You had seen people stopping to take photographs on your way home, with you stopping to take a few photographs for yourself of a mall poised to be the second largest in Zambia.
In that instant; it had been a marvel, it had been a wonder but above all, it was an achievement for the town.
There had been three other similar developments but nothing like this. The Freedom Park Mall at the former Freedom Park had unfortunately hit a snag before any visible progress while the Nkana Mall at the former Nkana Hotel – a hotel deserted back in the late 90s and now brought down to pave way for a Mall of the same name, was still under construction even though works had commenced before works on Mukuba Mall had, and the Copperhill Shopping Centre which was still operational with one of its profitable shops, the Keg and Coppersmith scheduled to relocate to the Mukuba Mall. What was unfortunate about this shopping centre was its location. It is almost out of Kitwe town and therefore away from the Central Business District ( CBD, hereafter ).
You had shared in this excitement only because development had finally come to your hometown. You knew this and everyone knew this. You knew what kind of doors such a development would open on the urban environment.
You picked up your phone from the bed and text back Grayla to accept the invitation; you would travel the Friday of next week.