Saturday 29 June 2019

Extraordinary Architecture of Great Mosque of Djenné of Mali - the Biggest Mud Brick Structure in the World

Muslims all over the world take pride in designing and constructing some of the unique mosques that even attract the non-Muslims and the architecture lovers. The unique designs date back to the early days of Islam which show the initial Arab architecture and then later when Islam spread all over the world the local architecture also got a chance to adorn mosques in their own way.

While most mosques have a large dome and a minaret, the Great Mosque of Djenné of Mali is an extraordinary marvel of architecture, unparalleled anywhere in the world. Made completely of mud bricks, it is the world's biggest structure made of mud bricks. The mosque located in the city of Djenné, Mali, on the flood plain of the Bani River, is a large banco or adobe building that is considered by many architects to be one of the greatest achievements of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style. 

The architect, Ismaila Traoré, the city’s chief mason and a Muslim, used traditional materials, including the palm-trunk inserts that bristle from the facade. 
Overview of the Great Mosque of Djenné during annual rendering ceremony - April 2019. (AFP/TRT World)

The mosque is one of Africa’s most revered religious monuments. and is the largest surviving example of a distinctive style of African architecture. The first mosque on the site was built around the 13th century, but the current structure dates from 1907. As well as being the centre of the community of Djenné, it is one of the most famous landmarks in Africa. Along with the "Old Towns of Djenné" it was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.
The freshly mud plastered vie of the mosque [Photo]

Sun-baked mud bricks called ferey and a mud-based mortar were used in building the walls of the Great Mosque. Its smooth, sculpted look comes from a mud plaster which was used to coat the walls. In the building are bundles of palm branches, which were added to reduce cracking caused by recurrent changes in humidity and temperature. These palm branches were also used as scaffolding during annual repairs.

Since it is a mud plastered building, it develops cracks due to intense heat. In order to keep the infrastructure intact and save it from damage, the entire community of Djenné takes part in the annual repair of the mosque during a festival called Crepissage de la Grand Mosquée. A race is held at the start of the festival to determine who will be the first to deliver the plaster to the mosque.
Mud plastering of the mosque walls in progress [Photo]

During the ceremony, men are primarily responsible for smearing the plaster over the face of the mosque while women and girls carry water to the site.  The older folks only sit and watch what’s going on amidst food and music.

The re-plastering, or remodeling, has preserved the structure but also, over time, subtly altered it, rounding and softening its contours, giving it a molten, biomorphic look — the visual equivalent of Malian Islam, some say insistently powerful without being harsh. However, the yearly mud plastering resulted in the accumulated layers of plastering gradually weakened the structure. In 2006 the Agha Khan Trust for Culture, based in Geneva and with a mandate to conserve earthen architecture, declared the mosque in danger of collapse and began an extensive restoration, which changed the shape yet again: curves and irregularities became crisp Modernist angles and straight lines.

Watch the video below of the annual repair of the mosque:
Even though there are several mosques that are older than the Great Mosque, the building remains one of the most famous landmarks in Africa. It attracts large number of tourists from around the world who come and appreciate the unique architecture in awe.

Photo | References: | Main Source:  Wikipedia | Other Sources: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 6 |
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