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.
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.
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 plastering home.jpg
Zambia thatch stored in bundles being applied to roof.jpg
Zambia structure being constructed with rammed earth.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 home being constructed with mud pressed in a paint can with the bottom cu
Zambia granary being constructed.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 boy looking from behind reed fence.jpg
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
Solola, Nkhotakota (7).JPG
Simwaka, Nkhotakota (6).JPG
Lufani, Nkhotakota (12).JPG
Lifidzi, Salima (17).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
Ghana Flickr 10b traveling3.jpg
Cameroon Flickr Scott Welch.jpg
Angola Flickr jbdodane2.jpg
Zambia Flickr Mark Taylor.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..
If you have pictures/ descriptions to submit to the data base or if you have any questions or comments about the project.