The central visual theme for our building at Amarula Campsite are Arches and Domes.
In my deliberations about a suitable roof structure that doesn’t involve wood (there are no large trees in the area that can produce lumber or long, straight structural pieces) I explored the idea of domes and vaults. It made sense: Handmade, fired bricks are available in the village, clay for mortar is on site – all we were missing was the expertise to build.
After some searching I realized that dome-building is part of biogas digester construction which is quite common here. So contacting one of the biogas companies in Arusha lead to the contact with our “fundi” Petro Omala and his son Goodluck Omala- both experienced and open to the challenge of our project.
First we needed a support structure that was able to span the 2+m opening between the kitchen and sitting room: the Arch. This arch had to be strong enough to carry one side of the sitting room dome and the south edge of the kitchen Vault. Petro recommended using cement mortar for its higher compressive strength, and suggested pointing with clay later.
Completed central Arch
Our layout includes several part circles, so my question was all along how to go from that to a circular shape for the dome: turns out the shape does not need to be a perfect circle. It is important that there are no straight edges though so that the forces can always press toward the center.
The sleeping room dome was built first- a radius of about 1.4 m.
The bricks were laid on edge- this reduces the overall weight of the dome. Layer after layer gets built with ever increasing tilt to the center. The clay mortar forms a strong bond with the bricks after a few seconds.
And this is the secret to the building of a dome: Hold the bricks in place with special hooks until the mortar dries a little or until the layer is complete.
hanging the 'hook'
Let me mention here that cement mortar would not work well because it is not sticky.
Attention must be paid to the edges of the bricks, and it is important to have mortar in all joints
building the dome
We chose to finish each dome with a bottle at the center, allowing light to come through and light up the ceiling a little.
bottle at the center
The larger dome of the sitting room was also built “free”- meaning without the guide of a radial stick. This was necessary because of the irregular shape of the plan, and made it difficult for our learning builders to build more than the first rows of the dome.
The following pictures show some of the scenes at work:
Master and student on the dome
working together on the dome
domes complete, preparing for the vault
With the domes closed our final task was to build the Nubian Vault over the kitchen. The technique of this type of vault relies on a strong end wall on which the first courses of the vault lean. This allows the builders to construct the entire vault without formwork.
Laying out the Nubian Vault's curve on the supporting wall
Start of the Nubian Vault
For the vault the bricks are laid “standing”. Two people work on either side and build the following bottom courses while the complete course is left to dry. Then both work together to complete each arch, supporting bricks for each other.
the opening of the Nubian Vault
The West end of the Vault is met by a half dome: note the changing direction of the bricks in the following picture:
closing from Vault to Half Dome at the West end
Nubian Vault and small dome
To complete the roof we now have to plaster all surfaces and then build gutters and good drainage. Watch for follow up posts in the near future.
The prices of things as experienced Spring 2012
mostly in Mnenia village and Kondoa town
all prices in Tanzanian Shillings: 1500 TSh = 1 US$
A days wages for a laborer: 3000
Tea and chapati at the local teashop: 300
Bus fare Mnenia to Kondoa 5000 round trip
Delivery of a trailer load of stuff by tractor: 60 000
Delivery of water by donkey: 200/5 gal jug
1 bottle of beer: 2000
1 package of cookies 4000
5 tomatoes 500
1 bunch of onions 1000
1 litre of oil: 3000
1 kilo of sugar 2300
1 kilo of rice 4000
1 apple 700
1 banana 100
1 litre of fresh milk 1000
1 container of yogurt (supermarket Arusha) 4000
1 chicken (live) 10000
1 egg 300
1 fired brick 50
1 bag cement 17000
Meal in a local restaurant Arusha 5000
Meal in a tourist restaurant Arusha12000
1 pair of sandals from recycled tires 6000
Jane Goodall is coming to Arusha.
That’s a good reason to make a trip from our village camp and get on the bus. For 12000 Tsh (approx. 6 Euros) we ride along with people from the villages and their things , namely large baskets containing chickens, to Arusha. 6 hours of rough ride and we’re glad to walk the few blocks to the Masai cafe where we will stay.
Lots going on here: Gary Wornell from Finland is wrapping up a printmaking workshop in the gallery. Gary is a renowned photographer and printmaker with a stunning portfolio of images and ceramics (his first artistic focus). He is working with Seppo Hallavainio to develop printing techniques on handmade paper. The result are images from the RockArt sites transported onto beautifully textured paper. Examples are now hanging on the walls that I plastered with the clay from Kondoa before we moved to the village.
Yesterday I helped host a fun “Face to Face with Gary Wornell” event that drew in many people for a free portrait session. I was not just impressed by the quality of the images but also by the individual attention Gary paid to each person that he photographed. Even a short five minute session became a personal session where he had the ability to engage with the people and bring out relaxed and beautiful pictures. See Gary’s blog for some samples.
It is a true professional who can keep the attention and stay focused for hours. And after all the photos are shot there’s editing and choosing and printing. Our small team was able to support the work but the product was all his and required his personal touch.
Now the focus is switching and preparations are underway for Jane Goodalls arrival in town. The local “Roots and shoots initiative” ‘s office is fully engaged in the scheduling and setting up for her brief visit. Thanks to the connection between the Rock Art Conservation Centre and the Roots and Shoots team we will meet “Dr. Jane” here at the exhibition space at the Masai Cafe. Truly a rare opportunity to meet someone with such experience.
http://elkecole.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/P1040640.jpg320320Elke Colehttp://elkecole.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Elke-Cole3.jpgElke Cole2012-02-28 07:37:252012-02-28 07:37:25Brush with Fame in Arusha
Driving from Arusha to Mnenia brought back memories from just over a year ago: then I was sitting in the passenger seat of Seppo’s aging Land Rover with growing amazement at the changing landscape while the vehicle negotiated the endless bumpy road-construction stretch between Arusha and Babati.(see Kijiji means village) I remembered the beauty of the country road of red earth on the other side of Babati, lined by large trees and populated by village people here and there.
The picture is different now: the road to Babati is mostly finished and traffic moves very fast, but now construction is underway on the other side. Just like in Bagamoyo a few years ago, I witness the massive impact that better roads have on the natural environment and can’t help but wonder how this will change remote villages like Mnenia, where we’re going.
Returning to a place means seeing it with fresh eyes and I was a little anxious as we approached the village and camp. Would it still hold the magic that I felt there last year?
The season is just a little later this time and everything is green and trees are blooming. All the fields are planted or tilled and ready. The sky looked heavy with rain when we pulled into Amarula Camp,the campsite of the Rock Art Project. Daniel, our translator last year, was there and his beaming smile showed his surprise when he saw us. “The women keep asking ‘when will Mma Matumaini come back?'”, he said. That’s what they call me here; matumaini means hope.
The Camp is looking much more finished: the nice banda with attached kitchen is complete, there are three covered Safari tents, another kitchen, a shower building and a structure for the dry toilet. The grounds are being kept by the staff, and it looks like they’re doing a good job.
We sat around a fire that evening under an almost full moon. And I felt again the peace and the sense of ease that overcomes me when I’m there.
For the next day Daniel arranged for us to meet with the Twiga women around 3 in the afternoon. “After they are finished with their work on the fields”. Of course- this is a very busy time for them.
I had not seen ‘our’ building with its roof (only a picture), so I was quite excited to find it in good shape and the women proudly in front. They all came to meet us- so many hugs, smiles and greetings- and then we sat down inside.
This was just a visit, a re-connection to see what is possible. We touched on some ideas but it will take more talking and thinking before something can be organized. So we enjoyed some sodas and each other’s company and of course some dancing.
I feel encouraged to go back for a longer time to continue the work in the village. Real soon!
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