May 4, 2010

The Mosque of Djenne, Mali

Paradise Found: A Documentary on Islamic Architecture and Art
shakirshuvo March 10, 2007

                                                           The Mosque of Djenne, Mali

Djenné, the oldest known city in sub-Saharan Africa is situated on the floodlands of the Niger and Bani rivers, 354 kilometers (220 miles) southwest of Timbuktu. Founded by merchants around 800 AD (near the site of an older city dating from 250BC), Djenné flourished as a meeting place for traders from the deserts of Sudan and the tropical forests of Guinea. Captured by the Songhai emperor Sonni 'Ali in 1468, it developed into Mali's most important trading center during the 16th century. The city thrived because of its direct connection by river with Timbuktu and from its situation at the head of trade routes leading to gold and salt mines. Between 1591 and 1780, Djenné was controlled by Moroccan kings and during these years its markets further expanded, featuring products from throughout the vast regions of North and Central Africa. In 1861 the city was conquered by the Tukulor emperor al-Hajj 'Umar and was then occupied by the French in 1893. Thereafter, its commercial functions were taken over by the town of Mopti, which is situated at the confluence of the Niger and Bani rivers, 90 kilometers to the northeast. Djenné is now an agricultural trade center, of diminished importance, with several beautiful examples of Muslim architecture, including its Great Mosque.
In addition to its commercial importance, Djenné, continue reading from the source

The Great Mosque of Djenné is the largest mud brick building in the world and is considered by many architects to be the greatest achievement of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style, albeit with definite Islamic influences.
The Great Mosque is located in the city of Djenné, Mali on the flood plain of the Bani River. The first mosque on the site was built in the 13th century, but the current structure dates from 1907. As well as being the centre of the community of Djenné, it is one of the most famous landmarks in Africa. Along with the entire city of Djenné it was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.


The Great Mosque is unusual among West African mosques in that its site was not sacred prior to its establishment — the location was previously occupied by a palace. Other mosques were built on the same locations as conical, mud-brick or stone spires representing the protective spirits of ancestors. Some scholars of Islamic architecture, such as Labelle Prussin, believe that these conical spires were integrated into the design of mosques throughout Mali, and point to the Great Mosque as the most prominent example.
The site has been the location of a mosque since the original building was commissioned by Koi Kunboro in 1240, before Djenné emerged as a major city of the empires of Mali and later Songhai. Amadou Lobbo, who conquered Djenné during the Tukulor War, ordered the original mosque demolished in 1834. He considered the original structure, which had been modified from a palace, to be too lavish. The only portion of the original building that still survives is an enclosure containing the graves of local leaders. A re-creation of the original was completed in 1896 but was subsequently demolished to make way for the current structure.
continue reading from the source