Buildings of Mali

Back to Mali pics, this time highlighting the buildings. Still drooling over the absolutely lovely scenes of sparkling ice outside…

The architectural styles in Mali are of three persuasions: Moroccan,… and two other that I can’t remember at the moment – sorry about that!

Regardless of the style, the construction is all out of mud bricks (although new construction in the cities tends to be of concrete blocks). Originally round ones, they are now rectangular and made in forms, then set to bake in the sun. Very little mud mortar is used between the bricks. After a building is built, it is covered with a mud coating to give it color and to protect the bricks from the rains that will come. Each year the coating has to be redone to keep the bricks protected, otherwise the rains will ‘melt’ the building.

The main layout of a set of buildings seems to be as a compound – a wall encircling an open center area with individual rooms/homes along the perimeter of the wall giving each wife/family a separate spot. The rooms/homes could be just one floor or two. Only business buildings were higher than two stories.

Each rooftop was usable space. In the dry season, it became the spot to dry clothes, foodstuffs and hides. It was a comfortable sleeping spot, too. There was usually a ledge built up around the perimeter of the roof – to keep folks from falling off! – and a drainpipe for the rains to run off.

In the villages outside the major cities, there were also granaries. Square ones with thatched witch-hat looking roofs were the granaries for the family – there would be separate granaries for each family the man had. The wife of each family could also have her own granary to be used sort of like egg money – if there was extra grain not needed for the family, she could store it separately and then sell it off when she wanted for her own use. The wives’ granaries were round and had rounded tops without thatching.

In the Pays Dogon, the Tellum people had been hunters and had made structures on the cliff sides very much like the cliff dwellers in the southwest US. When the Dogon peoples came seeking asylum, they brought their farming habits with them and proceeded to cut down the trees and chase away the animals. The Tellum quietly left to follow the animals, taking with them the secrets of how they managed to build those structures. The Dogon folks now use some of the old Tellum buildings for burial grounds. The legend is that the Tellum had a magic stick that could fly them up to their cliff buildings. We joked about a magic elevator as we trekked up and over all the rocks.

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