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Rural narratives

The unknown myth about rural buildings, the home where I grew up

I had great childhood memories only in the rural area, memories that can never depart from me.

Such are the roots and path through which I have the opportunity to tell my story today. They formed the woman in me.  I grew up in rural Kpemale in the northeastern part of Ghana, formerly the northern region.

In my community, we had most of the homes made from mud. Such buildings may look out of place. Nevertheless, I tell you, it is very comfortable and well-ventilated inside. Men and women alike own the traditional architectural knowledge of the building. It is a unique one. No engineer or constructor is needed to set it up. I can relate every bit of my personal life with these structures and how it feels like living there.

During my university time, I invited a bosom friend of mine on one fateful Saturday evening to have a photo watch. Once I was sharing my amazing pictures with the friend, a particular image with a background of our home popped up. This friend of mine stopped immediately with a question. What is this round structure behind you? I responded that, it is my home.

Curiosity, surprises and mixed expressions were seen all over her face. Then she asked the second question. Are you comfortable living inside this place, especially when it rains? With a smile on my face, I stated that this is my home, where I was born, where we sleep, keep our belongings, cook, and accommodate our most cherished visitors. My friend remarked: then you people must be too poor to afford a decent home! Again, with a smile, I told her: poverty is a state of mind, and we are not poor. We are only living in a house that looks different from what you are used to or have known. I further explained that those round structures had given us the best of memories as kids, and even now.

At this point, we suspended the photo watch, because I needed to explain a little more regarding the structure. So, I made my friend sit down, and as we are facing each other, I tenderly explain to her to understand.  According to my explanation, I told her that this type of building is typically found in most rural households in the northern part of Ghana. Such structures are either round/circular or rectangular shaped houses made from mud. Though there are a few modern houses.

While the men come together to build, the women are responsible to plaster the whole house. This plastering is something that brings women together, unite them and have long formed part of their community ties. When it comes to time for the flooring of the compound houses, they join hands to perform such an activity. The most exciting part of flooring these compounds houses is the songs they sing along. Whenever any household announces such an event, songs are prepared and rehearsed by one person. Sometimes they sing at random. while singing, they move towards the same direction, and the leader or the elderly among them will lead the group and spray some water on the dried portions.

Women flooring compound house in rural area. Video credit: Sam Kombat

However, the way to do it varies among women in different geographical areas. While I witnessed and saw women around Kpemale bend to perform the flooring, women around other surrounding communities stand with a long stick. This reduces waist pain and the stress associated with bending down for a long time. 

Women flooring a rural house in a standing position. I tired this myself while the women were watching.

For a moment, I wanted to still let my friend know the challenges one could face with such homes made with mud as constructional materials and thatched with grasses. One of such is that when the thatched is not correctly done, the rooms can leak during raining season. And in the dry season, it can easily catch fire if care is not taken with handling of fire around the house.

My friend was glad to learn about the existence of another form of structures built by people who own such architectural knowledge. I hope this adds up to your understanding of rural structures. Meanwhile, do not forget to follow for more reads. Feel free to like, comment, and share with others. Love you all.

Photo credit: Graphic online

12 replies on “The unknown myth about rural buildings, the home where I grew up”

Yes!! Its a beautiful write up Lydia.
Thank you for this eye-opening myth.
My good freind was astonished to experience a one day stay in my home all the way from Germany. He asked a lot about architectural bases. He could not imagine how the plastering with mare mid could withstand the corossive brushing hands of rains.

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Good write up Lydia. I think one important aspect you forgot to elaborate, such homes are self thermoregulatory. When it felt hot out, inside such houses were always cool and vice versa. This to me, is the real mystery.
Whereas those concrete buildings need fans or air conditioners to survive the heat of dry season (Summer months), the mud thatch houses do not. Also, in winter months (cold season), no need for heaters to warm up the house.

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Thank you so much for adding these insightful information about such buildings. It is just as you have described. Much appreciated.

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