In the town of Djenné, Mali, hundreds of young men gather to prepare the Great Mosque of Djenné for the rainy season. Platforms of rodier-palm wood are part of the mosque’s construction, serving as built-in scaffolds from which masons can easily replaster the highest parts of the mosque. Thomas Martinez
The Great Mosque of Djenné is the largest mud-brick structure in the world. Built in 1906 by order of the French colonial administration in Mali, the mosque is an African icon. (Note the many palm wood platforms sticking out of the building’s walls.) Thomas Martinez
Oussman Bocoum pauses for a portrait on his way to the mosque in the main square. Thomas Martinez
A phalanx of young men carry wicker baskets full of mud on their heads. To keep the mud from sticking to the basket, the segi (SEE-ghee) is dusted with sand between loads. Thomas Martinez
A mason, balancing on a wooden platform, applies mud to the top of the mosque. Only the most experienced masons do the highest work. Thomas Martinez
Children mix the mud; older boys carry it to the masons on the walls. In the background of this image, note the children practicing their mudworking skills on an exterior wall. Thomas Martinez
A young boy carries a load of mud to the roof of the mosque. The clay pots around him are used to provide light and ventilation to the interior of the mosque. Thomas Martinez
A group of young Malians take a break from work to admire the view from the top of the mosque's primary minarette, while the festival continues below. Thomas Martinez
Throngs of men ferry mud into the mosque's inner courtyard. Thousands participate in the annual reapplication of the outer coating of mud, which protects the mosque during the rainy season. Thomas Martinez
The minarettes of the mosque are repaired as the sun rises over the horizon. The mud festival is the only time of the year when everyone has complete access to the mosque, regardless of race, religion, or sex. For most people of Djenne, this is the only time they are allowed up to the roof of the mosque, and dozens rush to help repair the minarettes before they're finished. Thomas Martinez
Final results may be known as early as tomorrow, as Malians shrug off a coup and chaos and vote with new 'biometric' cards.
Peter Tinti, Correspondent /
July 29, 2013
Still recovering from a radical Islamist insurgency months ago, Mali plunged ahead Sunday with elections that France and the United States had called for as a condition to release some $4 billion in aid.