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The Book of Skins

Tonia Murray



Sumayya Vally


12R - An African Almanac


The word “skin” has primarily been understood as a covering for the body. In the Greek and Roman worlds, there are a variety of different words to name the different forms and aspects of skin. Chros is a common name for the skin in Greek, describing the colour or complexion of skin (homochroia). 1 This term is from the root chraomai (“to borrow” or “to make use of”), which may suggest a view of skin as pieced together - that skin is not a homogenous entity; but an entity made up of disparate ‘borrowed’ aspects, coming together into material form.

Similarly, architecture is often described as a “third skin”, reflecting multiple conditions. The skin of a building is the surface which interacts with the world at large, protecting its innards. Interestingly, in the African context, the skin is seen as a repository of identity - a thick, living surface, morphing as a result of various conditions. In this context, The Book of Skins frames and configures several skins - that of the body, the city and the earth - as complex, hybrid surfaces through which the inscriptions of memory, history, and tradition manifest.