“Privilege, you see, is one of the great adversaries of imagination; it spreads a thick layer of adipose tissue over our own imagination.” – Chinua Achebe.
One of the prime reasons why the Afrikan and the Afrikan’s socio-cultural surroundings and history have been referred to as ‘primitive’; a word that is intended to signify amongst other demeaning explanations, a people who are backward and lacking in material, scientific and technological ‘progress’ is the widespread presence of Afrikan huts throughout pre-historic and modern-day Afrikan communities.
The Bantu-Kongo communities of East Afrika are a good example of such a group of individuals who harnessed the simplicity, practical functionality and wise philosophical rationale underlying the make and choice of the mud-hut as a housing unit. Most rural communities in Afrika still build their homes and communities using the mud-hut technology and it is all because of its sovereign advantage over any other architectural housing design, given the locale and certain regard for the planet Earth.
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Obom is a typical rural community in the Greater Accra region of present-day Ghana, West Afrika. In this community, you will find members therein comfortable situated in mud-house structures, these individual housing units are usually arranged in a circle with the hut of the village elder or leader which tends to be bigger and more spacious than the rest placed in the midst of them all.
The mud-house structures widely patronized by rural Afrikan communities is cost-effective in its construction. Materials needed to bring a home-worthy Afrikan mud-hut alive are; laterite clay or any other form of durable clayey soil, quality wooden poles, water, Elephant grass, a piece of land and consenting labour.
In Obom for instance, both male and female can build the hut and given a family unit, the women who are regarded as the creatives within the nuclear family structure are entrusted with the dignified duty of building the mud-hut using clay mixed with water, and the men throw in their own share of labour by erecting the wooden poles in ways that will make the clayey walls of the mud-hut homes sturdy and strong. Men are also usually tasked with the mud-hut’s roofing. The mud-hut’s roof is made out of dried Elephant-grass secured upon a framework of wood engineered to cover the upper opening of the mud-hut. A ventilation space resembling a relatively sized hole in the roof is included within the roof design to allow for air circulation and the escape of smoke from the hearth that tends to be situated in the centre of the hut.
Whiles some Afrikan mud-huts have windows built into their circular structure, others are erected without windows of such nature as the hole created in the roofing serves such purpose. All the materials that are used in the construction of the Afrikan mud-hut housing structure are biodegradable. When an Afrikan mud-hut is demolished either to give way for the construction of a more ‘advanced’ edifice or because it has outlived its usefulness, the clayey soil simply adds to soil base upon which it once stood; plants can grow from it and insects can make their homes in it.
I once heard a friend ask a village elder; “so what happens to the mud-huts when the rains come down?” The wizened wise elder looked into our eyes and said; “Let them come.” His confidence in the ability of the mud-huts to endure various weather conditions stemmed from the simple fact that water only strengthened the mud-huts and afforded the women that singular opportunity to redesign the huts; a worthy avenue to explore the boundaries of their own store of creative imagination. After the rains, the Sun came and made sturdy, the structural stability of the mud-huts by her heated hands.
Sleeping in an Afrikan mud-hut is an experience to be relished. Since the clayey and grass materials used in constructing the mud-huts are all porous and organic, it allows for the escape of the less dense warm air and the entry of the cooler air during night time, the same cool process applies for the inner temperature of the mud-huts during the day. There is little to no use of paints and other inorganic aesthetic building materials, this improves upon the health of its occupants and they are able to draw upon uncontaminated air for their respiratory needs as they lay their heads to sleep.
Another interesting dimension to the use of mud-huts by Afrikans is its relation to the geometric circle. The circular structure of the mud-hut is representative of the spiral nature of things within our plane of existence. The circle has no beginning nor an end; it is self-encompassing, no corners and no shadows. The circle amongst ancient Afrikan ancestors is an honest and a pious figure, one that brings people and communities together rather than tear them apart. This is the reason why the Bantu-Kongo powerful social organizing philosophy and structure of Mbongi is created using lessons and wisdom from the circle, and it is also the reason why elders of the so-called ‘primitive’ Afrikan tribes used to sit in circles when deciding on issues bothering around societal development and conflict resolution alike. In a circle, everybody was regarded with dignity and respect, everybody’s view was taken into account for the circle does not have parts, it is whole and if the whole is supreme, then so is everybody and everything within the arena of its circumference.
In the final analysis, Afrikan mud-huts are environment-friendly, they wield practical as well as functional efficiency, their construction adds to the health and vitality of the Eco-system, their design, construction materials and building process help save money, build wealth and they are simply the coolest housing units that truly serve a purpose. This is the reason why the Native American Indians erect Tepees and the Eskimos of Earth’s frigid zones erect the Igloos.
A typical instance of the Eco-friendly and wealth building capacity of the Afrikan mud-hut housing structure can be experienced in the Afrocentric, prestigious One Africa Guest House and Health Resort in Elmina, Ghana, where the Queen Mother IMAHKUS will nurture you in Afrikan lore and relaxation pleasure.