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Cultural Development

For more information about the Mali projects, please click on the brief.The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has been working in Mali since 2004, when it began the restoration of the Great Mosque of Mopti (finished by 2006). The Mosque, commonly called the Mosque of Komoguel, was at risk of collapse. The first phase of the work focused on repairing the roof and stabilising the upper part of the building, which had been damaged by the inappropriate use of cement in a previous restoration effort in 1978. Local masons removed the cement layer and replaced damaged areas with traditional mortar and bricks, which are made by mixing earth with rice chaff.

More recently, the Trust has worked with the government to create the National Park of Mali in the capital, Bamako. As a response to the rapid rise in the city's population in recent years -- to over one million inhabitants -- the need for far-sighted urban planning was crucial.

The Government’s response was to define the outlines of the Park, a space of 103 hectares within a larger protected forest reserve of 2,100 hectares, which forms a significant greenbelt in this mainly arid country. Under the terms of the public-private partnership, the Government asked AKTC to concentrate on the Park’s 103 hectares, a large, semi-circular canyon of protected forest that lies beneath the terraced outcrops of the Koulouba plateau, between the National Museum and the Presidential Palace Complex.

Given the Park’s natural attractions, its large size and its location next to the National Museum Complex, the Park was designed to offer large open spaces for leisure and educational activities for the general public, school groups and tourists. The project brief called for the unification of the sites of the National Museum and the existing Botanical Garden and Zoo into a single cultural/ ecological park of significant value, with natural and cultural attractions. Phase 1 included the rehabilitation of 17 hectares of open spaces and gardens and the construction of several new facilities.
The Park features a comprehensive pedestrian circulation network and formal promenades throughout. It contains fitness, jogging, cycling and mountaineering tracks of varying difficulty and diverse interpretive awareness trails for botany, birds and nature. The pedestrian network provides easy access to the 103 hectares of the Park and connects existing facilities, such as the National Museum and the amphitheatre. The latter is dedicated to education and the performing arts.

Phase 1 also included the redevelopment and integration of eight existing facilities. The architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, an Aga Khan Award for Architecture recipient in 2004, was commissioned to design a primary and secondary gate, an entry building, a youth and sports centre, a restaurant, public toilets and several kiosks.

The garden spaces feature indigenous flora in varied settings, from open lawn areas to flower gardens, wooded areas and a medicinal garden. The installation of a range of interpretive educational signs and displays, and the development of trained guides, is expected to offer new educational experiences for visitors.

For more information, please see the brief entitled "Mali Projects 2004 - 2010" and the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme.

Earthen Architecture Rehabilitation Programme
The Earthen Architecture Rehabilitation Programme now has initiatives in Mopti, Timbuktu and Djenné, where it works to train people in traditional building methods and materials - many of which had been forgotten by local populations. The overall aim is to bring economic benefits through local industry, employment and tourism.

The Great Mosque of Mopti, which was officially listed as part of the country’s cultural heritage in 2005, is an imposing earthen structure built in the traditional Sudanese style between 1936 and 1943 on the site of an earlier mosque dating from 1908.The Great Mosque of Mopti, which was officially listed as part of the country’s cultural heritage in 2005, is an imposing earthen structure built in the traditional Sudanese style between 1936 and 1943 on the site of an earlier mosque dating from 1908.Great Mosque of Mopti
The Great Mosque of Mopti, officially listed as part of the Mali’s cultural heritage in 2005, was built between 1936 and 1943 on the site of an earlier mosque dating from1908. It was following a visit to Mali by His Highness the Aga Khan in October 2003 that an AKTC technical team identified the extent and urgency of the structural problems of the Mosque, which is also known as Komoguel Mosque.

The Mosque, which was officially listed as part of the country’s cultural heritage in 2005, is an imposing earthen structure built in the traditional Sudanese style between 1936 and 1943 on the site of an earlier mosque dating from 1908. The restoration work comprised a number of different phases: the complete reconstruction of the roof; stabilisation of the upper part of the building which had been damaged by the inappropriate use of cement in a previous restoration effort in 1978; repairing the earthen brickwork, removing damaged sections and rebuilding them with traditional earthen bricks; applying a traditional coating made by mixing earth with rice husks - called banco pourri - to the external walls; replacing the earth bricks along the building facades; rebuilding the parapet and the pinnacles of the terrace; removing and partly renovating the outer earthen coatings, which were in a state of disrepair; renovating the outer courtyard. Plumbing was installed in the courtyard along with a fountain for worshippers’ use.

The interior of the Mosque has also been substantially improved: the floor has been completely rehabilitated; renovation work on the staircase has made it easy to access the terrace; new public address, lighting, ventilation and electrical systems have been installed. The Mosque was also been given new doors made of high-quality seasoned wood.

This restoration work was undertaken in conjunction with the National Cultural Heritage Department of Mali’s Ministry of Culture, regional authorities, the city of Mopti and the Mosque’s committee. The local authorities also helped with the selection of experienced bricklayers, as well as young apprentices who were trained in construction and restoration techniques during the project.

This restoration work was, among other projects, a part of a Memorandum of Cooperation signed with Mali’s Ministry of Culture, relating to the conservation of Mali’s earthen architecture. But at the same time, an Agreement of Cooperation broadened the work to include to health, education, rural development, civil society and economic development. These programmes include the improvement of environmental health through water and sanitation and other measures to reduce the incidence of water-borne diseases (see Social Development for details). A visitor centre designed to be part of the tourism infrastructure is also being built.

Timbuktu
In Timbuktu, AKTC aims to reverse the deterioration of this important landmark and to develop the existing technical capabilities through training.In Timbuktu, AKTC aims to reverse the deterioration of this important landmark and to develop the existing technical capabilities through training.Following the work in Mopti, AKTC initiated comprehensive conservation of the Djingereyber Mosque in Timbuktu at the end of 2006. The mosque, built in the 14th century, is the oldest earth construction building in sub-Saharan Africa. Officially listed as part of the Mali’s cultural heritage, it was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

Because the Mosque is constantly subject to the depredations of a harsh, arid climate, AKTC aims to reverse the deterioration of this important landmark and to develop the existing technical capabilities through training. The project includes:

Djenné
A preliminary study on the Great Mosque of Djenné was initiated in 2006. Implementation of a selective conservation of the Mosque was being studied in 2008. Djenné, founded by merchants in the ninth century (near the site of an older city dating back to 250 BC) is the oldest known city in sub-Saharan Africa. Its historic city, where more than 2,000 traditional houses have survived, was also designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Bamako
In 2008, AKTC carried out advanced technical and economic feasibility studies for the establishment of an Urban Park in Bamako. The project is intended to link the National Museum, Botanical Garden and Zoo. It will also upgrade existing sites within the perimeter of the future park and develop new centres of interest for the public.

AKTC is also supporting the National Museum, in Bamako, under a Collaboration Agreement. The Museum has a remarkable collection of 8,000 objects, as well as over 52,000 visual materials and 3,500 audio-visual items. To AKTC has supplied technical equipment and software which will enable the Museum to create a digital database of its collections as well as a digital image and sound archive. The project focuses on reorganising the Museum’s reserve collections of archaeology and textiles. Structures and containers specially designed for classifying, storing and conserving archaeological artefacts will be installed in the Museum’s storage areas, while the textiles storage area will also receive new equipment which meets the international standards for conserving precious materials.

AKTC has also completed the construction of a new conservation laboratory, which was handed over to the Museum’s authorities and made operational at the beginning of 2008.

Aga Khan Award for Architecture
Recipients of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture include the Great Mosque, Niono, Mali.Recipients of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture include the Great Mosque, Niono, Mali.Recipients of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture include the Great Mosque, Niono, Mali, which received an award in 1983 for Designer/Master Mason Lassina Minta, who conceived and constructed the mosque almost exclusively with local materials, using only workmen from Niono. The construction techniques and materials, load bearing mud brick walls and arches supporting floors and roofs of wood, matting, and earth have been used in the region for centuries. The jury commented: "The continuing existence of traditional forms - both sophisticated and primitive - is one of our strongest allies in retaining architectural character and cultural identity as large-scale modern industry and world-wide building models assert their presence. Hence the will and the conscious intention to continue the tradition should be commended and encouraged." (Find out more on the Great Mosque, Niono).

The Medical Centre in Mopti, Mali, received an award in 1980. The medical complex consists of two clinics, one of which is a maternity centre, and a 70-bed hospital. Its design and construction respect Mopti's great mud brick mosque nearby and the low-scaled mud structures of the town. The jury commended the builders of this centre "for creating a medical complex which responds with great sympathy both to the culture and to the sensitive surroundings. The design takes into account local traditions and practices, and makes effective use of available materials and techniques of construction. The imaginative relationship of public to private spaces within the complex is not only successful in use, but helps to integrate the building into the existing urban fabric." (Find out more on the Medical Centre in Mopti).

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