WEST AFRICAN SUDANO SAHELIAN ARCHITECTURE

WEST AFRICAN SUDANO SAHELIAN ARCHITECTURE


Intro
Introduction: Africa generally does not get a lot of coverage
when it comes to culture, and when it is covered, that representation is typically limited so
called “tribal” cultures. I could go onto a rant about this subject
alone if I wanted to, but that’s not the purpose of this video. The limited representation of Africa is responsible
for the persistence of one of the most easy to debunk myths when it comes to the continent,
right up there with the no swords myth. The myth of a lack of architecture more complex
than simple huts. This miniseries aims to fix that problem by
looking at some of the most prominent architectural styles that can be found on the continent,
and we’ll be starting this by looking at Sudano-Sahelian architecture, quite possibly the most iconic
west african architectural style. Before I even talk about Sudano Sahelian architecture,
this question probably has to be answered: Why Mud? Well, I hate to answer a question with a question,
but: Why not mud? For some reason, mud has gotten a negative
reputation as a building material, and is associated with simplistic, so called primitive
designs. This idea ignores that mud is also some of
the most accessible building material around, and while it is extremely susceptible to rain,
it has numerous benefits, one of the most interesting to me being that It keeps you
cool during the day, and warm at night, as a result of some complicated thermal science
stuff that has to do with the heat capacity of mudbrick. This is, of course, pretty useful when you’re
living in the Sahel, which can get very hot, and there’s a reason why the ancient egyptians
frequently used mud brick for their architecture. Aside from in Africa, it saw use all over
the world. It was used by the Indus river valley peoples,
the later Harappans, in the Levant, in the Americas, and was the building material for
the city of Shibam in Yemen, the site of some of the first sky scrapers in known history. So, as you can see, it’s a pretty versatile
material that was used in many parts of the world, completely fit for the purpose of building
elegant, functional structures. As the name implies, Sudano-Sahelian architecture
is used across the Sahel and Sudan regions found in the northern half of Africa. While the Sahel part is more easy to explain
(the style was used in the Sahel, done.), the “Sudano” in “Sudano-Sahelian” may throw
some people off. While the misconception is understandable,
it does not necessarily correlate with “Sudan”, and, in this case, refers more closely to
the Savannah south of the Sahel. Sudano-Sahelian is a broad term, used to distinguish
a general style of architecture, and in reality has multiple subsets which evolved unique
stylistic and climatic adaptations. These subsets include the Mande and Hausa
styles. Contrary to popular belief, the Sudano-Sahelian
style was not introduced to West Africa with Islam, or as a result of Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage
to Mecca, and, as shown by excavation work done during the 70s, actually originated during
what Susan and Roderick Mcintosh call “Phase 2” of the development of the ancient city
of Djenne Djeno. This phase lasted from 40ce to 400ce, which
would put the date of Sudano-Sahelian architectural development at least over 200 years before
Islam was even founded. Buildings made in Sudano-Sahelian style are
crafted of a combination of soil mixed with water and other materials. While finer details may vary, the mudbrick
construction methods used by the inhabitants of Djenne are generally consistent in sudano-sahelian
construction, and can thus be used as a model. During the dry season, Banco, the soil that
is used for the production of mud bricks is obtained from pits dug near rivers during
previous dry seasons. As a result of water retreating with the end
of the rainy season, this soil is moist, and is perfect for construction. It is often mixed with materials such as rice
husk, straw, animal dung, and water, which itself is often supplied by women. Some of this mixture will become brick, and
some mortar. The developping bricks are shaped, and are
then laid out neatly to be sun dried. There are two main forms that the bricks are
shaped into – Traditional cylindrical bricks, known as Djenne Ferey in Djenne, each typically
crafted by hand, and rectangular Toubadou Ferey bricks, often made with a wooden mould. During the 20th century, the later Touubadou
Ferey brick, whose name roughly translates to “foreigner’s (or white man’s) brick”, became
used more commonly. This replacement of the traditional Djene
Ferey brick happened because, while they are apparently more resilient, once a wall built
with them becomes unstable, it is not repairable, while Toubadou Ferey bricks, are not liable
to this issue. After being dried, the bricks are laid out
to form the structure, and mud mortar is used to make sure that they stick together. After that process is complete, mud is plastered
on to provide a smooth coat. In buildings like the Great Mosque of Djenne,
one of the tallest mudbrick sites on earth, pillars inside support the roof, and holes
on it covered by terracotta allow for the flow of fresh air inside the building. As mentioned earlier, there are multiple different
styles and variations of Sudano Sahelian architecture. In the Chadic regions, home to the Kanem Bornu
empire, Kiln fired bricks are more traditionally used, which had the advantage of higher survivability
and longevity when compared to Sun Dried bricks used in the west. It’s unclear as to why Kiln fired bricks are
not more common in Western regions, seeing as to how Terracotas from across West Africa
clearly demonstrate that kiln firing was a known skill, but one suggested reason is that
the resources to do so were limited, and artists took higher precedence over masons. An art piece was meant to last as long as
possible, whereas a house only lasts as long as it’s owner. However, I personally think that if lack of
available fuel is important, then there is another possible reason: It would likely take
far more fuel to kiln-fire the bricks of an entire house when compared to a single terracotta,
and so the fuel available acted as a limiting factor. It was thus useless to kiln fire a few bricks
for a house where the rest of the bricks would be sun dried anyway, and so it was simply
decided to sun dry all of the bricks. Malian architecture has two different names
commonly associated with it. Mande architecture, mande being a term that
refers to a family of ethnicities and languages whose speakers live in West Africa, including
the Soninke, Bambara, and Mandinka, and Malian, as Mali is home to numerous Mande groups,
and is the country that this style is commonly associated with. The style can be distinguished for its use
of two things: Cone-like towers, and wooden planks. The religious purpose conical towers are thought
to have originated from ancestral pillars of some kind, but now they often serve the
purpose of marking the direction towards mecca in mosques, and also serve a non religious
purpose as support for the walls. Wooden planks that jut out of structures serve
the purposes of giving a visual flare, and of scaffolding, used during the replastering
of mud, which for important structures such as the great mosque of Djenne, is a major
annual event and festival, now known as Le Crepisage de la Grand Mosquee. Hausa architecture is executed by some of
the most highly organized architectural guilds in West Africa, and features the use of palm
trunks for roofing. A highly distinctive element of Hausa architecture
is the “Hausa Vault” – a collection of palm wood arches smoothed over with mud that stem
from walls and form a domed roof that looks quite beautiful. Hausa architecture is also painted in vibrant
colors more often than Mande architecture, which can create a very outstanding and beautiful
look, and features circular forms more frequently. A final notable distinguisher of Hausa style
Sudano-Sahelian architecture is the fact that bricks are often more conical in shape, when
compared to the traditional cylinders and modern rectangles of Djenne. It is my hope that this style does not fade
away with the ages, being the victim more modern and european styles of architecture,
as in my opinion, Sudano-Sahelian architecture has the ability to look beautiful when used
correctly, even in modern scenerios, as seen in this heritage house in Nairobi, Kenya which
just looks amazing. For the next video in this series, I’ll probably
go farther south to discuss some of the architecture found in Southern Africa. Hope you all enjoyed this one, and I’ll see
you there!

37 Comments

  • Charles Baylor

    January 26, 2019

    Great video 👍

    Keep Up The Great Work

    Reply
  • The GhostHero

    January 26, 2019

    Very good video

    Reply
  • Tyrone Chillifoot

    January 26, 2019

    I want an Assassin's creed game set in west Africa sahel story could be about one of the Mansa's taking out Userpers to the throne it could be called something like Assassin creed gilded Age

    Reply
  • Tyrone Chillifoot

    January 26, 2019

    Funny enough the worlds oldest sky scrappers people still live in them in Yemen originally built to avoid arab raiders

    Reply
  • HiddenHistory

    January 26, 2019

    Hunh i meant to publish this around noon.

    Sources, as always, are in the description!

    Reply
  • ⲈⲘⲒⳐ ϝᚱⲀ ⱌεᚣⳚϟⲯssέᛇ

    January 26, 2019

    Just like people in europe are realising that old architechure and building techniches plus crafts associated with them are worth preserving and keeping alive, so are people in many african localities – with the added benefits that they are now realising it while undergoing modernization and not as in the west where the realization first came after the crafts where gone and dead. Its not like reviwing a lost art, but keeping the art alive.

    Reply
  • That guy

    January 26, 2019

    got here from the discord group

    Reply
  • Stained Glass Window

    January 26, 2019

    Mudbrick is underrated 👉🏿🧱👌🏿

    Reply
  • Erudito otidurE

    January 26, 2019

    my BOI

    Reply
  • History Of Socialism

    January 26, 2019

    Great vid dude. What's that backing track btw?

    Reply
  • K Tanawi

    January 26, 2019

    Good job

    Reply
  • History House Productions

    January 26, 2019

    SCOOPITY POOP

    Reply
  • Afro Pharaoh's Medjays

    January 27, 2019

    Awesome Channel Black African Power Great Job Great Work My Brother's Keep it Up

    Reply
  • - Cogito -

    January 27, 2019

    Brilliant video, this kind of architecture deserves a lot more attention and like you, I hope it continues to be used.

    Reply
  • tom possessed

    January 28, 2019

    I find it hypocritical with the tribal culture such as south America but they don't get shit on constantly by it.

    Reply
  • Malcom Diene

    January 28, 2019

    Great video mate! I love the way you present, perhaps you should just put more energy to your voice (not my problem, others may have), just an idea to help you grow ;). To add, as a chillhop and african history fan, I absolutely adore the music background.

    Reply
  • That Guy

    January 30, 2019

    Great video hidden
    Pls don't forget the forest zone Africa such as ashanti, benin, dahomy, yoruba, igbo, and bamum.
    It will help demonstrate the diversity of west Africa architecture those also wasn't just mudhuts. Plud try to tackle central Africa congo, oceanic Madagascar, and east Africa swahilis.
    By the way, ur voice is approving
    I hope u get as big king and general and Jabari's (From Nothing) channel.
    Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  • That Guy

    January 31, 2019

    I sure hope to see it Sahlians mud bricks skyscrapers like Yemen.
    As Africa modernized but not getting rid of there tradition in the process.
    Btw nice music choice for this video.

    Reply
  • Mal1k h

    February 3, 2019

    That backgroud music tho lol
    Great video

    Reply
  • Csrugaal

    February 4, 2019

    Awesome video. Well done.

    Reply
  • Djinn Jax

    February 5, 2019

    Gotta love Hausa architecture.

    Reply
  • WRLD

    February 15, 2019

    Can you do the Ethiopian victory over Fascist Italy in WW2

    Reply
  • Eric Ford

    February 23, 2019

    Can you do a video about African martial arts.

    Reply
  • Samuel Appiah

    March 27, 2019

    Excellent video again 👌🏿

    Reply
  • x999uuu1

    April 30, 2019

    Song was a bit loud. Maybe turn it down a bit for the next video. Still like the idea of background music

    Reply
  • Vexillographer

    May 31, 2019

    Awesome video and editing! Learned some cool stuff about mud architecture, and you actually provide your sources unlike the vast majority of channels. Looking forward to more vids from ya! 🙂

    Reply
  • Sleeping Giant Africa

    June 8, 2019

    Great vid and congrats on passing the 1,000 mark! We also do videos about African history and culture. It'd be cool for us to collaborate on a video in the future. Let me know how we can get in touch with you 👍

    Reply
  • Stefan Milo

    July 7, 2019

    Mud architecture is making a moderate comeback in the west too, though it's called "cob". Great video, can tell a bunch of research went into this.

    Reply
  • Michel Aka

    July 20, 2019

    Excellent well researched work. Full of rarely publicized findings.

    Reply
  • Nick Cellini

    August 29, 2019

    Why mud ? How stupid. If mud was so great we would be using it today !!! So in the 1400's some africans in Mali built a few buildings out of mud bricks while the population lived in huts made of dried grass and Wildabeast poop. This is like 50,000 years after the Europeans started making actual bricks out of concrete !

    Reply
  • Daniel Martins

    August 31, 2019

    There is one source you can add:
    Myth of Al-sahili's origin of african architecture, and about how he was more a poet than an architect and the only structure he built was the palace/part of the palace of Mansa Musa with doomed roof and geometric paintings.
    https://www.persee.fr/doc/jafr_0399-0346_1989_num_59_1_2279

    Reply
  • theirish shane

    September 4, 2019

    Nice video. Very informative

    Reply
  • Nick Cellini

    September 20, 2019

    Great Zimbabwe, city was started in the 11th century with stone structures starting in the 14th century after the Europeans arrived. Walls of Benin were made of earth and mud ! Castles of Ethiopia were not built until the 17th and 18 centuries.

    Reply
  • Tahla Tessier

    December 5, 2019

    Great informative video! You just got another subscriber!

    Reply
  • Sasuke Uchiha

    December 7, 2019

    Please do more videos on African architecture

    Reply
  • The legend of Timbuktu

    January 8, 2020

    Dude this is probably the BEST African channel I've seen on YouTube

    Reply
  • Dylan May

    January 13, 2020

    Thank you for this, I was having a lot of trouble finding info on pre European anything in Africa. I am trying to create a country inspired by Sub Saharan Africa for my second fantasy book and it is hard to find good info.

    Reply

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