A Glimpse into Zambia’s Dying Cultural Heritage of Vernacular Architecture
When we go back into Zambia’s history, we learn that between the 1600s to 1900s, Zambia was at a convergence point of the popular Bantu migrations from both the Northern regions and Southern regions. This resulted in 73 tribes settling in Zambia and a mixture of similar architecture skills ensued.
We should now look at the commonness of the building materials that the Bantu people of Zambia used. These included grass from the Savannah grasslands, tree branches, soil from hills of different earth color, and fiber from the trees. Since there is no need to buy these building materials, the building in this region is quite inexpensive and has been considered a man’s job because of the strenuous activity of getting the materials literally from the land. The vernacular architecture is an endowment of Zambia’s rich cultural heritage that is affordable for all and closely inclined to religious cult of the African setup.
The mud built grass thatched huts that are traditionally built in Zambia are deep rooted to historical environment of the Zambian people. The floor is usually molded with black soil from the many river banks in the country. And the outside of the huts is beautifully plastered with red soil from the vast ant hills. Furthermore, lime which can be readily mined throughout the country is used to draw beautiful patterns of about one feet tall at the bottom of the plastered huts. The art of making the beautiful patterns was assigned to the women and thus the job fully completing a well-built vernacular structure was and is inclusive of both the male and female sexes.
In the Zambian traditional chiefdoms, a man’s worthiness was also measured by his ability to build good huts for himself and his wives. And the wives’ perseverance in beautifully decorating the grass thatched huts. Usually the men were required to replace the grass roofs every rain season but that was no problem because the grass material was readily available in the beautiful Savannah grasslands.
The beautiful grass thatched huts that are captioned in the article are a courtesy of the museum in the capital city of my country, Zambia. The hut has been preserved with all traditional artifacts of the 1600s Zambia so that the Zambian people do not completely forget this precious heritage. People have been allowed to live in these government owned huts so that expression of the life in the past can be brought into the 21st century reality. It was amazing to visit the village museum and feel taken aback into history,the architectural history of my country.
Its about intangible cultural heritage!
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