Vernacular architecture in every African country is disappearing, being abandoned for western materials and techniques. This architecture is a part of a countries' culture, as much as language, music, arts or food. African vernacular architecture needs to documented.

Hello.. my name is Jon (Twingi) Sojkowski, a RPCV who served in Zambia from 95-99. I am an architect and my passion is African vernacular architecture.

The Myth

Most people in western societies have an image of a mud hut in their head, it is a small round hut in a delaipitated condition. Peopl feel that vernacular architecture is temporary, sub standard and for the poor.

One of the main reason of why this myth continues is due to lack of information available. There is little to no data to be found on line regarding vernacular architecture in any African country.

There is no current research documenting African vernacular architecture. There is no organization committed to preserve this part of culture. No African University has a data base. There is no voice for African vernacular architecture.

Zambia

Part of my PC service was teaching architecture at the University. There, I was surprised to learn that there really was no documentation on Zambian vernacular architecture. I recieved a small grant from PC that enabled me to travel the entire country and document. Instead of publishing a book, I decided that a web page would be able to share this info with the world for free. That web page has been up for 19 years.

Zambia woman standing in front of her decorated home.jpg

Zambia woman standing in front of her decorated home.jpg

Zambia woman plastering home.jpg

Zambia woman plastering home.jpg

Zambia thatch stored in bundles being applied to roof.jpg

Zambia thatch stored in bundles being applied to roof.jpg

Zambia structure being constructed with rammed earth.jpg

Zambia structure being constructed with rammed earth.jpg

Zambia social insaka on top of a termite mound.jpg

Zambia social insaka on top of a termite mound.jpg

Zambia Man standing in front of his home wit a roof covered with flowering plant

Zambia Man standing in front of his home wit a roof covered with flowering plant

Zambia home being constructed with mud pressed in a paint can with the bottom cu

Zambia home being constructed with mud pressed in a paint can with the bottom cu

Zambia granary being constructed.jpg

Zambia granary being constructed.jpg

Zambia container constructed of weaved reeds to hold groundnuts.jpg

Zambia container constructed of weaved reeds to hold groundnuts.jpg

Zambia bricks are stacked to create a kiln which is then burned.jpg

Zambia bricks are stacked to create a kiln which is then burned.jpg

Zambia boy looking from behind reed fence.jpg

Zambia boy looking from behind reed fence.jpg

Malawi

In 2014 I started an Indie GoGo campaign to raise funds to travel to Malawi to document the vernacular architecture. Besides the important documentation, I also wanted to demonstrate that this type of research is not a cost prohivitive.

Kamuzu Road, Salima (5).JPG

Kamuzu Road, Salima (5).JPG

Solola, Nkhotakota (7).JPG

Solola, Nkhotakota (7).JPG

Simwaka, Nkhotakota (6).JPG

Simwaka, Nkhotakota (6).JPG

Lufani, Nkhotakota (12).JPG

Lufani, Nkhotakota (12).JPG

Lifidzi, Salima (17).JPG

Lifidzi, Salima (17).JPG

Khisha, Nkhotkota (8).JPG

Khisha, Nkhotkota (8).JPG

Being a former volunteer I know of the connections between a PCV and the host country's culture. That is why I am asking for your help. I began a data base on African vernacular architecture, which is populated by crowd sourcing. As PCV's you are living and working at the village level... that is where the documentation needs to be.

Lesotho Flickr rafamerchan3.jpg

Lesotho Flickr rafamerchan3.jpg

Ghana Flickr 10b traveling3.jpg

Ghana Flickr 10b traveling3.jpg

Cameroon Flickr Scott Welch.jpg

Cameroon Flickr Scott Welch.jpg

Angola Flickr  jbdodane2.jpg

Angola Flickr jbdodane2.jpg

Zambia Flickr Mark Taylor.jpg

Zambia Flickr Mark Taylor.jpg

Algeria Flickr Omar Dakhane.jpg

Algeria Flickr Omar Dakhane.jpg

How you can help

All that is needed is a picture and a description. In this day and age of taking pictures and communication through the internet, this is a task which is not difficult or time cosuming.

Peace Corps is in 26 countries in Africa. That is a large area that could be covered by people (in their little part of it) who relly care about their host contries culture.

Why it matters

For too long, African vernacular architecture has been a topic that has been both under-documented and, unfortunately, ignored. People say there needs to be documentation but yet nothing is done. Whether this is due to difficulties in obtaining funding or just apathy, the fact remains that very little data can be found online. 

The database is a platform to showcase images, which leads to awareness, which leads to appreciation, and when value is placed on vernacular structures perhaps these myths will change. The time for documentation is now, before this part of culture is gone forever..

Contact Me

If you have pictures/ descriptions to submit to the data base or if you have any questions or comments about the project. 

A little more...

Swaziland Vernacular Architecture

Malawi Vernacular Architecture

Zambia Vernacular Architecture

AfricanVernacular Architecture Data Base

© 2017 by African Vernacular Architecture