SPARC

Society for the Promotion of Art and Culture

The Fanciful Mud Architecture of Mali

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For centuries the mud architecture of West Africa has been one of the region’s most distinctive artistic forms. The French-speaking country of Mali is rich in examples, particularly in its Islamic architecture, though the architectural style is also used for many other types of buildings (churches, homes, civic buildings … ).

One of the unusual aspects of these mud buildings is that every year the mud surface must be given a new layer of clay to replace what torrential rains have washed away.

The most famous example of Malian mud architecture is Djenné’s great mosque, which was founded in the 13th Century though the current structure dates from 1907. It is reputedly the largest mud building in the world, and it has three minarets that are more than 10 meters high and pierced with wooden toron (stakes) that act as permanent scaffolding. The building was designated a World Heritage Site in 1998.

There’s an extensive photo archive of the “Mud Mosques of Mali” on Archnet.org. The archive was created by Sebastian Schutyser, who photographed 515 adobe mosques of the Niger Inner Delta. There is also an interesting — and short — report about this unique brand of architecture on BBC titled “Mali’s mud architects.” [From]

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