Society for the Promotion of Art and Culture

Musgum Architecture

The Musgum or Moupoui are an ethnic group in Cameroon and Chad. They speak Musgu, a Chadic language, which had 61,500 speakers in Cameroon in 1982 and 24,408 speakers in Chad in 1993. The Musgum call themselves Mulwi. In Cameroon, the Musgum live in the Maga sub-division, Mayo-Danay division, Far North Province. In Chad, they live in Bongor Subprefecture, Mayo-Kebbi Prefecture, and in N'Djaména Subprefecture, Chari-Baguirmi Prefecture. This territory lies between the Chari and Logone rivers. Increasing numbers of Musgum in Cameroon are settling farther north, in the direction of Kousséri.

The Musgum are Neo-Sudanese in origin, having displaced the Paleo-Sudanese at the present territory along with other Neo-Sudanese.Their recorded history begins with their conquest by the Fulani during the jihad of Modibo Adama in the 19th century. Many Musgum have since adopted elements of Fulani dress and culture and have converted to Islam. Fishing is an important activity for the Musgum during the rainy season when the Logone River floods. This has led to ethnic tensions with rival fishermen of the Kotoko ethnic group.

Caption: Musgum home in Cameroon made of earth and grass

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Mud Architecture in Mali


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Repetition of Mistakes

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Experience with Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks (CSEB)

By Arch. Nabeela Nazir

In October, 2007 we considered building our house in Lahore where we had moved a couple of months earlier and it appeared that we were going to stay put for the foreseeable future.

I had always admired houses made of soil in its most natural form. Rammed earth, Wattle and daub, Adobe, Cob and CSEB seemed to me to belong to their surroundings as fired brick didn't. Urban and climatic constraints however rule many of these techniques out, except Rammed earth and CSEB.

Having worked with CSEB many years earlier in my days with the Aga Khan Network, I decided to give this medium a try once again. CSEB are compacted soil blocks produced in a specially designed manual press. The press is known as Cinva Ram and was first used in South America about 60 years ago. The basic component of these blocks is soil to which some amount of sand is added for its inert qualities. Depending on the overall soil composition and the type and amount of clay particles in it, it is stabilized with cement and/or lime to a ratio of 5-10% by volume. The dry mix is gently sprinkled with a little water and mixed with a fork. The water should be just enough to make a lump as you squeeze it in your hand. The process of compaction and stabilization together ensures that the block gains sufficient strength after proper curing and makes it equivalent to a kiln produced brick.

One could see endless examples of this medium from places in southwestern US like New Mexico etc. Closer to home in India too, with the Auroville Institute in the state of Tami Nadu, India, taking the technique various notches up. Contemporary examples in our immediate urban environment however, are hard to come by. My brief search for the same in Lahore was predictably unsuccessful, but I decided to go ahead nonetheless.

Some research later, which included the tests of soil samples from the site ( X-Ray Diffrected and Petrographic Modal analysis) at the New Campus Geology deptt, the hunt for a source of hydrated lime, locating the fellow in Karachi who had made the Block Press for us earlier, discussions with Auroville regarding the best block size for a small project and overall composition based on the type of soil I had available, and finally after consultation with the engineers, we designed a load bearing house in CSEB.
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