Mali: Replastering the biggest mud building in the world
Share this article
1 of 13
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.
2 of 13
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.
3 of 13
Women have the task of bringing water from the river to the mosque. Like the men, they form groups based on the quarter of the city they live in, and compete to see who can haul the most water over the course of the day.
4 of 13
Kids practice their mud-work on the exterior wall of the mosque. Children have the task of mixing mud and preparing it for the young men who will bring it to the Masons.
5 of 13
A mason, balanced on a wooden platform, applies mud to the top of the mosque. Only the most experienced masons do the highest work.
6 of 13
Masons rush to raise a ladder inside the mosque's courtyard.
7 of 13
Platforms of rodier-palm wood are part of the mosque’s construction. They serve as built-in scaffolds from which masons can easily replaster the highest parts of the mosque. Rodier wood is strong, as well as weather- and termite-resistant.
8 of 13
An experienced mason hangs from the underside of a ladder as he applies mud to a hard-to-reach spot on the side of the mosque.
9 of 13
Oussman Bocoum pauses for a portrait as he carries a load of mud on his head to the mosque in the main square.
10 of 13
Young men from the Bambara quarter of Djenne march together as they deliver mud to the Masons inside the mosque.
11 of 13
A group of young boys run into the Niger river to celebrate and bathe after the ceremony is complete.
12 of 13
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.)