Culture And Heritage

Online African Architecture library on cards


By Nyasha Mutena

…as the All Africa Village thematic park nears completion

Construction of the much anticipated All Afrika Village; a thematic park, with village structures that are representative of all the Afrikan nations’ significant architectural styles has reached advanced stages.

Located in the Nharira Hills about 25km out of Harare CBD along the Harare-Bulawayo road, these villages are expected to be a powerful business model and a springboard for many other business possibilities, particularly in the recreation, tourism, heritage and cultural industries among others.

These villages are intended to cater for material culture and artistic displays, cultural interactions and heritage discourse. They consist of Igbo compound of Nigeria, the Zezuru, Tonga, Ndebele, Ndau and Doma huts representing Zimbabwe, Tswana and Khoisan representing Botswana and Kavango hut representing Namibia.

Through an official statement, Dzimbanhete Trust projects that by the end of 2021, they would have completed construction of the SADC region. The team also successfully pulled down the curtains on its Sounds of the Sacred Web Festival which was funded by Culture Fund together with its associates; Culture at Work Africa and co-funded by the European Union, from August 2019 till December 2020, breaking off to observe Covid 19 national restrictions now and again.

In addition, the innovative skills team will soon be launching an Online Library of Indigenous African Architecture, as a way maintaining continuity during the current travel bans. This library will help inform the All Afrika Village construction team, as they will be able to reference for accuracy during the construction of the remaining countries’ homesteads. It will also avail information on indigenous African architecture to diverse audiences worldwide.

The library will not just consist of images of huts, but detailed information on materiality, construction methods and underlying aesthetics, knowledge systems and narratives on how the custodians respond to their architecture.

“For the formation of this library, we have created links for people and communities in other Afrikan countries, whom we are working with. So far we have linked up with people in more than 30 different African countries and are still waiting for confirmation from the remainder.

“These links will be working as our research coordinators, visiting and documenting information on the ground in their respective communities via video, photographs and written narratives. All collected data will then be availed on our online platforms.

“We highly consider the accumulation of such information, which we believe is rarely found, be it in academia and also wherever it is found it is never in the voice of the cultural custodians and it is frivolously labeled,” said Dzimbanhete Trust.

This library will be groundbreaking in the understanding and appreciation of indigenous African architecture. African architecture is in general eco-friendly, built with natural material, which in most cases is locally available, is viewed by many as an entity of the past, if not backward.

“The information we have gathered so far proves how efficient these structures are in terms of energy circulation and preservation, acoustics and how in their simplistic appearances are by far more complex than one would think. Each structure’s respective details serve more than one purpose and the details have remained quite specific over centuries.

“The fractals seen on the ceilings, which are a new phenomenon in modern mathematics, have been a feature in most of these structures since time immemorial and to hear how the Karanga people relate components of these fractals to the woman and man’s ribs as the computable methodologies for construction, indeed opens up another window of understanding. This is some of the information and details that the library will be availing to the global public once the project is complete,” Dzimbanhete Trust added.

This village will be characterised by 54 villages, laid out on a 17 hectare piece of land. Each village, with an average of 4/5 structures will be on a 3000 square metres area. The lay out of the whole project will have it such that the village of each country will be located on approximately the exact spot as it is on the map of the continent.

Each village will further be adorned with its material culture. Well-lit pathways connecting each village will allow easy access from one end of the continent to another. Three amphitheatres, restaurants and gift shops will also compliment this village.

“There is need for Afrikan traditional cultures to have a platform where they are made accessible collectively, celebrated, discussed and documented, with a view to encourage discourse and exchanges that will intern build bridges for unity, tolerance and appreciation,” said Dzimbanhete Trust.

The very inception of this project is indeed a celebration of Afrikan architecture as the home for indigenous cultures and knowledge systems, a subject that is becoming more and more attractive the world over. Tourism has since become more culture based than safari and the idea of creating a one stop centre with all the various cultures cannot be over emphasised more so as a recreational, scholarly tourist attraction.