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.
Yesterday was an exciting morning for us: Dr.Jane Goodall came for a short visit to the Gallery at the Masai Cafe in Arusha to meet Seppo and get introduced to the work of the Rock Art project. It’s all connected through her Roots and Shoots organization with which the Rock Art Project collaborates in village schools in the Kondoa region.
She is a living legend and for many of us a hero: her name brings up images of a young woman connecting with chimpanzees out in the wild of the Tanzanian forest, and that of a powerful advocate for the protection of wildlife habitat.
What I heard strongly from her was a deep commitment to the fostering of education and personal action of the next generations.
In her speech at St.Constantine’s International School she spoke of hope: that through small individual daily action we can bring about change, to follow your dream and stick with it and to watch for opportunities to propel that dream forward.
It is often through fortunate encounters in combination with reaching for high goals that the next door will open.
My favourite tidbit was a memory she shared of being four years old and hiding under straw in a nesting box in order to watch a chicken lay an egg: finding the answer to her question “how does the egg come out of the chicken?” It illustrates even at that early age her determined character and a curiosity and love for animals.
She changed how people see animals, she inspires women to step out of typical roles, and she now has access to influential circles where she continues the work that began by taking a ship to Africa. Someone in the audience asked about her retirement and who might replace her, and she responded that there are many individual jobs that people are continuing in her place but that no-one would be the next “Jane Goodall” .
I am grateful to have met her and feel inspired to listen for my passion and keep on going with my work. Lets all do our daily piece and see where it will take us.
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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.
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Everyday actions are learned as we grow up, by observation, copying, failure, trying again and getting better little by little. Depending on our home place and culture of origin we learn very different skills: it may be using certain tools in the garden or on the farm, techniques for handwashing clothes, cleaning house even how to do shopping for food.
When, as an adult, you switch home place for a while and immerse yourself in a different culture its time to adapt and re-learn some things. This can be both challenging and very much fun.
A example is haggling over prices. In North America and Europe we are used to walking into a store or market and buying things at a fixed price. Here in Tanzania (and many other places of course)there are situations with fixed prices , such as supermarkets and larger stores, but in many places you have to negotiate for a good price. As visitors we first are given what we call “mzungu” prices: very much inflated and nothing a local would ever consider paying. So we haggle back and forth and sometimes leave without the item, otherwise having arrived at an agreeable price for both parties.
More recently I’ve been practicing carrying things on my head. Here we see young girls transporting buckets or sizeable bundles on their heads gracefully and without touching them with their hands.
I asked Saum to help me learn and she showed me to roll up a kanga and place it on my head which cushions and supports the bucket. The weight immediately settles the head and spine into a straight (strong) line. A little steadying by one arm holding the edge of the bucket helps me keep it there and prevents sudden movements. I have to learn to walk slowly and evenly, both strong and flexing all the time keeping a balance between the movement of my feet and legs and the slight movements of the water in the bucket.
years of practice
During a work party with my friends of the Twiga group we were carrying buckets of clay, and great excitement stirred, when I picked up a bucket too. It works much better than our way of carrying off centre and one-sided. Do try it sometime! I was most impressed by the older women in the group working tirelessly and powerfully.
Zaruna laying stone
While some of the group were digging and moving the clay, others were building the stone foundation for the small cob cabin that we are building here at Amarula Camp.
And like every good work party we had food together at the end. Happy about what we achieved and feeling good to be working together again.
Soon we will start cobbing- if you’re in Tanzania and looking to learn cob building, please contact me. There’s always room for help.