Posts Tagged With: Keybane Soninke

Sahelian Architecture in Nara, Murals in Ocre and Mud Bricks

THE PLEASURE OF JUST BEING THERE

My working days looked like this: I started out early and went to the villages in the morning when it was not too hot. I came back at around lunch time and during the obligatory desert siesta I took notes ( yes, notes from my mud hut. I filled page after page of my diary with descriptions of what I saw and what I experienced). In the afternoon I went again to the villages to come back shortly before sunset. Then I got myself a drink, usually a beer from Kouame’s Bar or the unavoidable colonial Gin and tonic and looked over my wall until it got night, holding my drink below and not above the wall as Kodjo had recommended.

No, I am not strange ! That was what other people did as well. Except for the beer and the constant visiting of the villages. But looking over the wall is a popular past time in Nara and it is really absolutely not boring.

I visited the villages daily, mornings, afternoons and sometimes even in the evenings when I was invited for a ceremony. I was blessed because I was allowed to witness so many scenes of Nara daily life. When browsing the internet now I come from time to time across great articles that describe in detail some aspects of Malian life.

I was really incredibly blessed. Sometimes you don’t know a blessing when it is there, but you realize it later how great the gift was that you have received. The fact that I stayed for several years in Nara gave me the chance to see everything with my own eyes and to  experience the pleasure of just being there !

Not only to see it with my own eyes but to see it OVER AND AGAIN – until I could say without shame, yes I have seen this truly.

Most of the buildings in the villages in the Sahel zone are mud brick constructions. Mud brick houses are the traditional way of building in the Cercle de Nara and way beyond the borders into Mauritania.

The mud bricks are made where and when they are needed. Villages usually have a mud hole next to them, often in a dry lake,  where the bricks for the village are made. Mud brick building have to be repaired a certain period of time, especially after the rainy season, and need frequent attention but it is astonishing how long mud bricks can last.

A mud brick is a non fired brick, made of a mixture of clay, mud, sand, and water mixed with a natural and organic binding material such as rice husks or straw. Brickmakers use a stiff mixture and let them dry in the sun for 25 days. It takes a lot of experience to make bricks and a brickmaker is a professional who works throughout the whole year. He makes bricks for other people as well.

A well maintained and with beautiful wall mural decorated homestead in the village of Keybane Soninke

In warm regions, like the Sahelian zone with very little wood available to fuel a kiln, the bricks were generally left in the sun to dry out. This had the result that their useful lifespan is reduced to around thirty years. Once a building collapsed, new bricks would have to be made and the new structure rebuilt on top of the rubble of the decayed old brick.

This phenomenon is the primary factor behind the mounds on which many ancient cities stand. In some cases brickmakers extended the life of mud bricks by putting kiln dried bricks on top or covering them with stucco.

In the Nara environment the mud brick were called Banco: a mixture of mud and grain husks, fermented, and either formed into bricks or applied on surfaces as a plaster like paste in broad strokes. This plaster must be re-applied annually

A traditional wall painting on a "Banco plastered wall" made from mud bricks in Keybane Soninke

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Categories: Africa, African Architecture, Mali, Mali Wall Murals, Nara, Sudano Sahelian, Tradition, West Africa | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Children In The Villages Are The Greatest Inventors

A group of children in the village of Keybane Soninke

Many things have changed during the last ten years in Mali. With the construction of a tarred road Nara has come out of its isolation. There is cell phone reception and internet access now in Nara. A friend said to me the other day: “These pictures are beautiful memories and you must tell the stories that belong to them”.  The stories can be told easily but the problem is to find the right angle and to link them to the present, since they are my memoirs from the past.

The two pictures show a group of children in the village of Keybane Soninke. The children in the villages of the “Cercle de Nara” can be called without exaggerating ” the greatest inventors on earth”. There was nothing to play with. At least not something that could be called a toy in a traditional or classical way. The contrast between a child raised in a first world country and a child raised in a small village in the Sahel could not be greater.

Extreme poverty creates extreme creativty. Anything could and would be turned into a toy, provided it was interesting enough and it was not needed by the adults anymore.

Is the scenario still the same today or has the arrival of technology als changed the life of the children in the villages. The only way to find out for me is to go back there!

The children in the village

Categories: Africa, Mali, Nara, Nature, People, Sahel, West Africa | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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