Friday, September 19, 2014

The Great Mosque, Dejenne Mali. 14th Century

Initial Reaction

While skimming through Art Beyond the West, I encountered something that captured my attention. When initially observing this structure, it first appeared to be a structure similar to a sand castle, but in a real-life size. After further observations, I started to notice some interesting details. Because it looks as if it is made of dirt and clay, the structure seems to have a very dated appearance. Based upon the general designs of the walls and the towers associated within, the entire structure seems to look like a church or religious center, The structure has interesting protrusions that make it have a prickly appearance. These protruding pieces look similar to wood or clay. Interestingly enough, this structure's lining, including the towers, walls, mounds, protrusions,  and spacing is very precise. The fact that it is very precise shows that it must have taken time and skilled builders to build this, due to the fact that in older times building tools were not very common.

After Research

After initially observing and appreciating this structure with no previous knowledge regarding to what it was, I decided to further my knowledge in this interesting structure and discover new information about it. This sand castle-looking structure is actually called The Great Mosque at Djenne, Mali. According to Art Beyond the West, the first version of the Islamic Mosque was built in the 14th century. The second version of the Great Mosque was built in 1835, and the current Great Mosque that is still standing was built in 1907. All of these reconstructions were done to improve the Great Mosque both structurally and decoratively. The Mosque is made of puddle clay, adobe bricks, clay and straw mixtures, and other binders set in molds that dried in the sun. The protrusions on the walls give the Mosque a interesting prickly appearance, but they also have a function. According to Art Beyond the West, the wooden protrusions have the function of supporting the workers who re-plaster the walls annually at spring time because of the erosion caused by rain and wind. The current function of the Great Mosque is to hold religious gatherings, ceremonies, and celebrations.


Riley, Michael. "Africa." In Art beyond the West: The Arts of Western and Central Asia, India and Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea, the Pacific, Africa, and the Americas, 262-263. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006.

Photo Credit: Jurgen

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