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Marchand, Trevor H.J. (2009) The Masons of Djenné. Bloomington Indiana: Indiana University Press.

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Djenné has been a thriving settlement for more than two millennia. The city played an historic role in the great Niger kingdoms of West Africa and, together with Timbuktu, it controlled the commerce in gold, salt and slaves that plied the mighty river. The allure of Djenné’s riches and defensible location attracted a cosmopolitan population of merchants and scholars, and a class of wealthy patrons who built one of Africa’s finest urban centers. Its ancient mud-building tradition has survived a challenging physical environment and centuries of political upheaval and social change. Throughout the twentieth century, the monumental architecture of this island town was instrumental in constructing Mali’s colonial and postcolonial identities. Djenné’s inclusion on UNESCO’s roster of World Heritage sites in 1988 has promoted international appreciation of its unique urban landscape; ‘Sudanese’ style mosque and merchant-traders’ houses. At the core of Djenné’s architectural production are the town’s masons. These craftsmen are members of an ancient association (barey ton) with a rigid trade hierarchy and apprenticeship training system. The long apprenticeship forms individuals into technically competent masons with recognized status and a strong sense of moral duty to their community. While working on site, novices are introduced to a professional lore that includes secret knowledge and protective rituals, as well as claims to origins, ethnicity and masculinity. Based on field experience as a building laborer and apprentice, The Masons of Djenné reveals the rich and complex combination of know-how and socialization that engender a mason’s distinctive comportment and identity. Ethnographic accounts of daily life, fluctuating economics, changing aesthetics and rapidly encroaching global technologies are woven into narratives about the successive stages of house building, from sanctified foundations to sculptural decoration. The chapters of this book are detailed portrayals of the shifting fortunes and social lives of Djenné’s masons.

Item Type: Authored Books
Additional Information: winner of the AfAA Elliot P. Skinner Prize, the ASA 2010 Melville J. Herskovits Award, and the RAI Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology
Keywords: anthropology, architecture, Mali, Africa, apprenticeship, masonry
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Anthropology and Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
ISBN: 9780253313683
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2008 08:55

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