Architecture: House

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Origin: Cameroon ,   Mousgoum

Description:  For three centuries, the Mousgoum have built their homes in the plains on the Cameroon / Chad border. The Mousgoum and their famous houses, called tolek in their language (Munjuk), have been known to the Western world since the 1850s at least, when the German explorer Heinrich Barth traveled to North and Central Africa.

For Mousgoum, as for many cultures around the world, art and architecture have become important supports for maintaining, in tangible and visible forms, a knowledge of the past . Tolek mousgoum, a dome made of clay, was endangered by the 1930s, by the combination of forced labor introduced by the French colonial power, the emigration of Mousgoum, changes in the social structure mousgoum, diseases and death. In 1994, there was little tolekakay still standing.

However since 1995, there has been a resurgence in the construction of its houses. Nearly twenty are now in Pouss and its surroundings. Parallel to this, the end of 1995 saw an explosion of the mural, which often represented the tolek. At the end of the nineteenth century, the tolek became a synchretic form, native in its genesis and charged with the understanding and interpretation of the Mousgoum on external ideas.

Origin: South Africa , Lieliefontein, Namaqualand 

Description:  The portable hut (“/ haru-oms”) of the Nama, one of the many groups of Khoikhoi pastoralists, is unique in South Africa. Due to its structure, the hut of mats is a semi-permanent shelter: a tent that is almost a house. It can be assembled and disassembled quickly and is perfectly adapted to a nomadic way of life. Its various elements, a light wooden frame and a braided blanket can be easily loaded on the backs of oxen and transported through the semi-desert plains and mountains of Namaqualand. This increased the mobility of Nama pastoralists and allowed them to travel a great distance during transhumance.

The aerodynamic shape of the dome allowed to hold a maximum volume in a minimum of space. The armature in branches held together by ropes made of vegetable fibers does not need any other support. The circular plan and domed roof gave a feeling of space inside although the actual space was restricted. The mats attached to the wooden frame according to a defined scheme, allowed to regulate the internal temperature. In dry weather, the air passed through the mats and refreshed the interior of the house, but in the wet season, the fibers of the mats expanded under the effect of moisture, and made the cover impermeable. Two matte doors at the front and back of the house could be rolled in order to increase ventilation and increase the diffuse light that filtered through the interstices of the mats. The realization of the mats for the construction of a new house was long and thorough, and was the task of the women. But once built, the house needed little maintenance, and the various elements could be repaired or replaced easily.

The house in mats is very rare nowadays. We can see variants built with plastic or sheets.

Translated and adapted from GP Klinghardt, South African Museum, Sagittarius , Volume 2, Number 1 March 1987