Mali’s Traditional African Architecture….

The Great Mosque of Djenné

This is a celebration of Architecture, Design using culture, mud, clay, soil, dirt and dust.

The architecture of Mali.

It draws the attention of tourists and architects from all over the world.

Mali (of West Africa) is distinct. It is the 8th largest city in the continent, its capital is Bamako while the country’s official language is French.

Apart from the food, clothing and indigenous culture that sets the people apart, the country brags of a distinct subset of Sudano-Sahelian architecture indigenous to the region. Some of these structures have lasted generations. This started when West Africa’s two greatest civilisations the Mali Empire and the Songhai Empire flourished.

Let Ibene take you on a trip to Mali’s major jaw-dropping structures;

The Great Mosque of Djenné:

History has it that the Great Mosque of Djenne was first built in the 13th century. It is an example of Sudano-Sahelian architectural style and has been an integral part of the Malian community for almost a millennium. This entire structure was built by putting mud, dust and dirt together.

Mud architecture in Mali is a skill that has passed on from generation to generation. Every element in the town’s architecture has a usefulness beyond just decoration. Here’s an example; the wooden poles that poke out of the sides of the buildings are used instead of ladders to make it easier for masons to climb up and down the buildings during construction and re-constuction. 

Every year the re-plastering of the mosque forms part of a big celebration. A date is announced and the people come from neighbourhoods both near and far to participate, whether it is through fetching water, helping to make the mud bricks or the actual plastering. This activity is to prvent the wall from thinning.

Djenné was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

The University of Timbuktu:  

Timbuktu has many ancient mud brick buildings but this is most famous. It is a mosque that has been transformed to centres of learning.

Converting masajids (local name for mosques) to Centre’s of learning is usual in Mali. This can be seen in other major cities like Sankore, Djinguereber, and Sidi Yahya during the medieval era.

Here is a photographic tour of this city of mud, where the material has an unexpected beauty in its baked colour and forms moulded by generations of human hands.

Do you know of any ancient city with beautiful architecture? Do share with us in the comment section.

Photo credits go to;  Juan Manuel Garcia, Carsten ten Brink, Hugo van Tilborg, zibaloo_1/Flickr, Martha de Jong-Lantink,  Carsten ten Brink, Guillaume Colin & Pauline Penot, Dorothy Vorhees, Juan Manuel Garcia, National Geographic, UNESCO.

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