SOAS University of London

SOAS anthropologist's exhibition on mud masons of Mali opens at Smithsonian Institution

29 August 2013

Trevor Marchand, Professor of Social Anthropology at SOAS, University of London has co-curated an exhibition featuring the masons of Djenné for the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

Djenné, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is renowned for its spectacular mud-brick architecture. The West African town owes its unique character to its masons who are inheritors of an ancient craft tradition handed down from one generation of the Boso people to the next.

‘Mud Masons of Mali’ presents a series of contemporary photographs and displays of the masons' tools and materials. The exhibition also features a new documentary film, Masons of Djenné, directed by Professor Marchand. Visitors will discover how the masons perpetuate their age-old craft while meeting the challenges of a modern changing world.

Professor Marchand said: "During these turbulent times of political crisis and uncertainty in the country, it is important to remember - and to celebrate - Mali's rich cultural heritage. As mason Boubacar Kouroumansé told me in 2012: "When people talk of Mali today, some automatically think about the war and about the hand-chopping that goes on now. But there are others who don't see it so narrowly. They still remember Mali for its old tradition of dignity and honour. We need to focus more on that!""

Mud Mason of Mali
Mason Konbaba Tennepo featured in the exhibition. Picture credit: Professor Trevor Marchand.

‘Mud Masons of Mali’ will be open from 31 August 2013 until 30 April 2014. The exhibition is curated by Mary Jo Arnoldi and Professor Trevor Marchand. For more information visit the Smithsonian Institute website - video preview available.