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Styliane Philippou, 'The Lizards of Djenné'26 September 2010

In the epilogue to his remarkable monograph on the Masons of Djenné, a fascinating study of the lives, practices and professional training of the designer-cum-craftsmen responsible for the unique mud-brick or adobe architecture of this Malian town of approximately 12,000 inhabitants, the architect and anthropologist Trevor H. J. Marchand describes the re-plastering of Djenné's Great Mosque, in February 2005. 



View of Banani village on the Bandiagara escarpment (Dogon Country), Mali. Photograph by Styliane Philippou, 2004


This annual festival involves the entire community of Djenné in the necessary regular maintenance of its majestic monument, which guarantees the protection of its mud brickwork against sun, rain and wind erosion. An act of devotion and a special festive event, the re-plastering of the building's exterior surfaces and roof normally takes place in March or April, towards the end of the dry season when most building activity takes place, a relatively short period between the end of the winter harvest and the first spring rain falls. The town elders together with the master masons of the barey ton (masons' association) typically determine an auspicious day for the event, just few weeks or days before its actual occurrence. This tradition was discarded in 2005, so that the re-coating of the Great Mosque with a new layer of mud would coincide with the first week-long Djenné festival, a new tourist attraction for this island town on the Bani River.

Read the article here

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