The Talo Dam

The World Bank’s Legacy:

Le ministre Seydou Traore humilié a Djenné

Africa and Dams


(par Aliou Traoré)

Consensus sous bonne escorte

Les arguments de Djenné contre le grand barrage de Talo (1998)

(Par François GALLIER)

Analyse du projet de barrage de Talo et révision de conséquences sur les systéms de production ruraux du Djennéri

Impasse ou sortie de la crise?  Info-matin news paper arcticle (Bamako, Mali)

Document pressante a la réunion organisée a l'occation de la visite de la vice-president de la BAD a Djenné 21/11/2003

Le nouveau dessin du barrage de Talo

Clark report

Press release  September 15,2002
Talo Dam, Mali, West Africa
by the Djenne Initiative










Djenné, the oldest known city in sub-Saharan Africa is situated on the flood lands of mosques throughout the Islamic world, it reflects the aesthetics and materials used for centuries by the people of Djenné. Its use of local materials, such as mud and palm wood, its incorporation of traditional architectural styles, and its adaptation to the hot climate of West Africa are expressions of its elegant connection to the local environment. Such earthen architecture, which is found throughout Mali, can last for centuries if regularly maintained. The repair or maintenance of the Great Mosque is carried out by the senior masons, who also coordinate the annual spring replastering. Many of the citizens of Djenné work to prepare banco (mud mixed with rice husks) for the event. It may be compared to a community fair "with much festivity and laughter," as described by a visitor "in 1987: "Every spring Djenne's mosque is replastered. This is a festival at once awesome, messy, meticulous, and fun. For weeks beforehand mud is cured. Low vats of the sticky mixture are periodically churned by barefoot boys. The night before the plastering, moonlit streets echo with chants, switch-pitch drums, and lilting flutes. A high whistle blows three short beats. On the fourth, perfectly cued, a hundred voices roar, and the throng sets off on a massive mud-fetch. By dawn the actual replastering has been underway for some time. Crowds of young women, heads erect under the burden of buckets brimming with water, approach the mosque.
Other teams, bringing mud, charge shouting through the huge main square and swarm across the mosque's terrace. Mixing work and play, young boys dash everywhere, some caked with mud from head to toe." In 1988, the old Town of Djenné and its Great Mosque were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Djenné, was also known as a center of Islamic learning and pilgrimage, attracting students and pilgrims from all over West Africa. Its Great Mosque dominates the large market square of Djenné. Tradition has it that the first mosque was built in 1240 by the sultan Koi Kunboro, who converted to Islam and turned his palace into a mosque. Very little is known about the appearance of the first mosque, but it was considered too sumptuous by Sheikh Amadou, the ruler of Djenné in the early nineteenth century. The Sheikh built a second mosque in the 1830’s and allowed the first one to fall into disrepair. The present mosque, begun in 1906 and completed in 1907, was designed by the architect Ismaila Traoré, head of Djenné's guild of masons. At the time, Mali was controlled by the French, who may have offered some financial and political support for the construction of the mosque and a nearby religious school.

The Great Mosque is built on a raised plinth platform of rectangular sun-dried mud bricks that are held together by mud mortar and plastered over with mud. The walls vary in thickness between sixteen and twenty-four inches, depending upon their height. These massive walls are necessary in order to bear the weight of the tall structure and also provide insulation from the sun's heat. During the day, the walls gradually warm up from the outside; at night, they cool down again. This helps the interior of the mosque to stay cool all day long. The Great Mosque also has roof vents with ceramic caps. These caps, made by the town's women, can be removed at night to ventilate the interior spaces.

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