December 5th was World Soil Day and for 2019 the theme chosen is ‘Stop soil erosion, Save our future’. Soil is fundamental to our very existence on earth and deforestation is one of the main ways the soil is destroyed. The World Soil Day came about because the United Nations wanted people to be more aware about the problems that humans face by destroying the soil.
Africans are people of the land. African architecture during the pre-colonial period had soil as one of the main ingredients for construction. Africans, especially in rural areas, still build their houses with soi. Some people used rammed earth, mud bricks and daub and wattle houses all of which have sand and clay as the primary ingredients.
The Djinguereber Mosque, constructed in 1935 in Timbuktu, Mali, is made of mud and straw. The structure is kept intact because it is constantly sun baked by the desert sun and the heat from the sun keeps it dry and intact.
This UNESCO world heritage site is a breath-taking example of Southern Morocco’s architecture. The entire village of Ksar of Ait Benhaddou was built with rammed earth. It is one of Morocco’s top tourist attractions and is one of Ouarzazate’s ancient walled cities.
The desert oasis of Siwa in Egypt has fortified buildings made with local mud called Karsheef. This mud has high salt content and it is gathered from the lake shore. Siwa was a crucial trade route but lost its place when the Roman Empire collapsed. Now Siwan Berbers occupy the town and it’s one of Egypt’s tourist sites.
This mosque in Burkina Faso is over a century old. It is similar to the Djinguereber Mosque in Timbuktu. The protruding timbers were a deliberate design to make room for workers to re-plaster the building with more clay. The building which represents traditional Sudano-Sahelian architecture has undergone some renovations and was initially built with only clay and timber. Now cement has been introduced in its re-plastering.
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