Thursday, 28 November 2013

P O E T R Y   I N   M U D

MUD : the word evokes so many images & memories…

Of the smell of rain
Of childhood days spent digging a dry river bed by the jungle edge to make clay animals & pots
Of passing by decorated mud granaries on way to the grandparents’
Of sandy summer winds that turn the skies ochre mid-afternoon…

There was no “play dough” when I was a child and mud used to suffice for all childish construction curiosities. Living in urban environments, we often have little clue that this most basic material has wide spread use as a building material. 

Bountiful in nature, mud has been used since ancient times by humans (and other living beings – think termite & ant hills!) to build dwellings. Many communities have a tradition of surface painting on adobe walls. The patterns are elaborate and hold deep rooted cultural connotations. 

As I spent last week skimming through the web for visuals on painted adobe dwellings, I realized what an elaborate expression these dwellings are, of their Inhabitants and Creators. They are living canvases that tie together people & cultures - Poetry in mud...

And Now, 
that the Poetess in me has awakened ;)
what better a way,
than to start my day,
with this alluring photo essay! 
 Join me on this tour through Africa & Asia 
On the platter : Some beautiful adobe dwellings with hand painted decorations. 

Images: 1, 2, 3 : Margaret Courtney-Clarke; 4: Mhobl, member @ Flickr

Aren't these visuals breathtaking!

The houses above belong to the Soninke people in Senegal, West Africa. Some patterns find an echo in the painter's clothing :) The carpet patterned door is from a house in Tighmart Oasis, Morocco, a region famous for its handwoven carpets.

Below are Ndebele dwellings from Pretoria, South Africa. 
 Did you ever think houses could be painted this way?

Images: 5: Source unknown; 6:; 7: Margaret Courtney-Clarke; 8: Arthur Chengica; 
9: Britannica Online for kids

Low cost & environmentally sustainable, 
adobe structures (mud stabilized with organic matter like straw etc to give it stability & strength) 
are climatically comfortable and are usually seen in warm dry climates.

Images: 10, 14 (Ghadames, Libya):; 11, 12, 13 (Burkina Faso): Anthony Pappone

Ghadames, is a UNESCO world heritage site and the oldest settlement in the Sahara Desert. "The interiors of the houses are uniquely painted with intricate Berber designs, using red paint on white walls, and decorated with hanging ornaments;....The objects used to decorate the rooms include mirrors, ornaments made of palm straw (such as food covers), brass and copper, and Berber carpets, rugs and cushions." Source:

Gurunsi villagers in Burkina Faso, West Africa also paint their dwellings with elaborate abstract patterns.

Images: 15:  Deidi Von Schaewen; 16: Harmattan Viaggi; 17: Rosemary Sheel; 18:

Above: Houses of the Oualata tribe, Mauritania, West Africa
The richness of surface decoration reminds me of Indian palaces!

Images: 19 (Kutch): Shaam-E-Sarhad Village Resort; 20: Chandan Dubey; 
21(Mandana painting, Rajasthan): Book - Nurturing Walls; 22 (Madhubani, Bihar): Mark Edwards

The barrenness of desert regions of Thar in Rajasthan & Kutch in Gujarat is offset by colorful dwellings dotted across the landscape. Kutch has a tradition of mirror inlay work in mud plaster which adds a special allure to the interiors. 
Madhubani in Bihar, home to the famous Madhubani paintings has mythological narratives decorating home walls.

Images: 23 (Kutch-mirror inlay): Nevil Zaveri; 
24 (Mandana painting, Rajasthan):

Many of these painting traditions are being used in contemporary architecture. Some, like the Ndebele in Africa, find an echo in the craftwork of the region and are exported to the outside world - creating appreciation and awareness, crucial to the preservation of traditions.

That's the end of our journey today - I promise to take this forward with a feature on mud architecture sometime soon!