Duck Duck Book

48 – african traditional architecture
08.1.2007, 6:53 pm
Filed under: art & entertainment

African traditional architecture : an historical and geographical perspective / Susan Denyer ; line drawings by Susan Denyer ; maps by Peter McClure.
New York : Africana Pub. Co., 1978.
[MCL call number: 720.967 D417a 1978: one copy, no holds]

If you ask a person in the United States what a traditional African building looks like, chances are you will get a cursory description of a generic small hut.  It might be round, with some sort of thatching on top, and perhaps there will be a goat nearby or a barely-clothed person leaning in the doorway.  Such a dim picture exposes an ignorance of the diversity of traditional structures in Africa (and of the cultures that might produce buildings).  This might be fine — you can’t expect everyone to have a detailed knowledge of the material folk traditions of all the peoples of the world — but it’s only fine if the person you’ve asked actually understands that their vague description is vague.  That is, the bigger problem is that people often don’t know how little they know.

Fortunately, finding out how little you know about African vernacular architecture is easy when you have access to a book offering an accessible survey of the subject.  Thank goodness for libraries, right?  African Traditional Architecture contains a structured discussion of traditional sub-Saharan African buildings, with sections devoted to rural settlements, cities and towns, sacred and ceremonial buildings, defense, the building process, decoration, house forms, and the impact modernization has had on traditional structures.  The book is liberally illustrated with black and white photographs, maps, diagrams, and drawings, and the main contents are followed by a rather scholarly bibliography and an index.


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