African architecture is close to nature – it is connected to it out of love
There is a village in Burkina Faso called Tiébélé, and something sets it apart from the rest in the area. The people living there have relied on an ethic of isolation to not only preserve their way of life and their culture, but also to preserve their houses. These houses are artfully crafted, simple, yet ornate structures. When one sees the efforts and care put into these homes, one realizes why the village would be so protective.
XHOSA VILLAGE (SOUTH AFRICA)
Xhosa huts at the Lesedi Cultural Village. The Xhosa nation used to build bee-hive shaped huts made of grass, similar to that of the Zulu nation. The walls are decorated with whitewash and colorful natural paints.
From the age of twelve, a man will live in his own square cabin in the compound. Women live in round cabins, which they share with their children. Married couples without children share the husband’s cabin; unmarried daughters and sons up to the age of twelve will sleep in their mother’s cabin. One cabin serves as entrance to the compound and is not inhabited. This entrance cabin is used to receive visitors and for meetings. Another cabin functions as provision cabinet and cooking place in case of rain. Between cabins in the compound there are huts to house the animals and unroofed cabins for bathing and urinating.
The Musgum people in Cameroon constructed their mud houses with compressed sun-dried mud. Earth is still used as a building material and appears environmentally more acceptable for low cost housing, as cement is known to release carbon dioxide during the process of its manufacture. Mud is laid over a thatch of lashed reeds. They are compared to adobe structures or variants of cob structures, which are made from sand, clay, water, and some kind of fibrous or organic material such as sticks, straw, and/or manure. Although of simple design, they are well planned from a utility viewpoint. The houses were built with geometric designs. They were built in the shape of a shell in inverted “V’ or conical form.
NDEBELE ZULU SOUTH AFRICA
The back and side walls of the house were often painted in earth colours and decorated with simple geometric shapes that were shaped with the fingers and outlined in black. The most innovative and complex designs were painted, in the brightest colours, on the front walls of the house. The front wall that enclosed the courtyard in front of the house formed the gateway (izimpunjwana) and was given special care.
Windows provided a focal point for mural designs and their designs were not always symmetrical. Sometimes, makebelieve windows are painted on the walls to create a focal point and also as a mechanism to relieve the geometric rigidity of the wall design. Simple borders painted in a dark colour,lined with white, accentuated less important windows in the inner courtyard and in outside walls.
The homestead is an efficient model of climatic control – in its low humidity environment, the courtyard ventilates well in summer, while trapping heat in winter. The thickened out bases of the courtyard walls provide seats affording comfort and protection from wind and sun. Ndebele homesteads also function as part of the ritual process of the rites of passage. The frequently-practised rituals provide the pretext for decoration and architectural embellishment. The homestead itself becomes the decorated backdrop to the performance of these ceremonies which take place both within and outside its courts. In affirming Ndebele identity, art and architecture form a crucial part of the ritual process.
Traditional Rwandan housing was constructed from locally sourced sustainable materials. Historically houses were dome-like round houses made from cedar poles, linked with bamboo and reeds and thatched with grass or banana leaves.
The homes were built alongside similar but usually taller granaries called Ghorfa. The whole complex was a fortified settlement with only one entrance. Ksar Ouled Debbab is in the Tataouine district of southern Tunisia.Houses rich and poor are built around a courtyard, which serves as a family work space away from strange eyes. Entrances are designed to prevent passersby from seeing into the building.
Since the 14th century, Djenné in Mali has been distinguished by its impressive mud-based architecture, where the town’s over 200 historic homes and its central towering mosque are all formed from bricks and plaster of mud.
A mud house, as the name suggests, is built using mud. Some stones are also used. When a person wants to build a mud house, the first step is to find clay soil, dig it out then mix is with some water until it becomes thick. Then the person lays the foundations using poles or sticks held together using ropes. Then the person builds the mud house and after it is complete he leaves it for three days to dry. The final step is to thatch the roof using grass.