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Future of Mud: A Tale of Houses and Lives in Djenne
Directed by Susan Vogel
Produced by Susan Vogel, Samuel Sidibé, Trevor Marchand & the Musée National du Mali
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Through the story of a mason in Djenne, Komusa Tenapo, and his family, this documentary examines an African tradition of mud architecture in Mali. The environmental genius of these ancient construction techniques—thick walls with tiny windows that keep the interiors cool despite the stifling heat—is expressed in strikingly beautiful designs that have won the town of Djenne designation as a World Heritage site.

film still

FUTURE OF MUD reveals Komusa's hand building methods, utilizing sun-dried bricks made of mud from the flood plain which contains decayed fish, and cattle manure that are mixed with organic materials such as straw and rice chaff. The film shows him at work on two building sites, and at the annual repair of the Great Mosque, employing thousand-year-old construction techniques, plus the secret knowledge he inherited from his family of masons, including religious rituals to protect homes and workers from evil spirits.

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Komousa, family members and Madame Diallo, a Cultural Heritage official, present information on the history of Malian architecture. The film also shows the annual replastering of Dejenne's Great Mosque, the largest mud brick building in the world, a day-long, boisterous community effort, and a major public celebration observed by local residents and tourists.

"This highly engaging film puts a human face to the construction of Mali's remarkable mud buildings. Against the dramatic portrayal of one mason's life we see an ancient city come alive, culminating in one of the most exciting, high-energy community events captured on film-the annual re-plastering of the Great Mosque in Djenne."—Marla C. Berns, Director, Fowler Museum at UCLA

"A very believable, instructive and compelling narrative about traditional building practices and how it intertwines a rich, underlying dimension to Djenne's social and urban fabric… One gets a true sense of love and craft combined with a love for the creative and integrative possibilities of earth."—

"This documentary has good cinematography, an excellent soundtrack and a fairly cohesive story line. It provides a current look at West African life today."—Janis Tyhurst, Educational Media Reviews Online

"Fascinating… an excellent introduction to the building traditions and masons' practices in this part of Africa."—Geert Mommersteeg, Visual Anthropology

2010 TAC Festival, Winner of 7 Honors
2008 International Festival of Films on Art
2007 Vancouver Pan-African Film Festival
2007 Rotterdam Architecture Film Festival
2007 RAI International Festival of Ethnographic Film

58 minutes / Color
French; Bambara / English subtitles
Release: 2007
Copyright: 2007

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This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Africa, African Studies, Architecture, Cultural Anthropology, Environment, Green Building, Green Design, Islam, Mali, Natural & Manmade Materials, Sustainability

Related Links:
The Films of Susan Vogel


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