Mopti, Mali, 1 August 2005 - During his recent visit to Mali, the Aga Khan reviewed restoration efforts undertaken on Mopti’s Grand Mosque by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). The mosque, an earthen structure built in the traditional Sudanese style between 1936 and 1943 on the site of an earlier mosque dating from 1908, was at serious risk of collapse until the Aga Khan Trust for Culture commenced restoration work. It is expected to be fully restored by 2006.
“Mopti’s mosque is an outstanding example of the traditional Muslim architecture of the Sahel,” said the Aga Khan. “We hope that our restoration efforts, which include an important training component, will develop appropriate restoration guidelines and solutions that will be used in other projects in Mali and in the region.”
“On behalf of the people of Mali and the government, we are honoured that the AKDN is contributing to the preservation of the country’s cultural heritage,” said President Touré at the signing of an an agreement on 1 August 2005 that will expand cooperation in social, cultural and economic development in the country. The President had visited the mosque in April.
The mosque is commonly called the Mosque of Komoguel. The first phase of the work on this important landmark 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. Because cement weighs additional loads to the structure and integrates poorly with the traditional materials, earthen buildings clad with cement often suffer water infiltration and structural damage over time – a process which, in this case, had weakened and seriously compromised the stability of the monument. Fissures in the cement cladding applied in 1978 have been infiltrated by water, which has led to structural damage and compromised the stability of the building.
Since November 2004, local masons have been working under the direction of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture to remove the cement layer and replace damaged areas with traditional mortar and bricks, which are made by mixing earth with rice chaff.
Attention to tradition has been paramount in the development of the work. Gisèle Taxi and Wilfredo Carazas, the AKTC consultants specialising in earthen architecture, are responsible for the restoration work, “The first objective for the work at the Mopti Mosque was to make the buildings structurally sound,” said Gisèle Taxi. “The second was to reinstall the original material using traditional techniques and expertise.”
All work on the Mosque is conducted in conjunction with la Direction Nationale du Patrimoine du Ministère de la Culture du Mali, regional authorities, the city of Mopti and the Mosque’s committee. The local authorities also helped with the selection of experienced masons and young apprentices who are being trained on the job. Training is an important aspect of the AKTC’s international work and mission.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which has wide expertise in the restoration of traditional buildings in contexts as varied as northern Pakistan and Zanzibar, became involved in the restoration work following the visit of His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, in October of 2003.
On 14 October 2004, the monument was formally inscribed as an official landmark in the nation’s cultural heritage by the Minister for Culture.
In addition to its activities in cultural restoration, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is instituting various social and economic programmes in Mali, including improvement of the aviation infrastructure and microfinance initiatives. Mopti’s Medical Complex was a recipient of an Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1980. AKDN’s West African presence includes operations in Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal.
For more information, please contact:
Réseau Aga Khan de développement (Mali)
Immeuble UATT, sis quartier du fleuve
B.P.E 2998, Bamako, Mali
Tel : +223.222.08.63/222.06.95
Fax : +220.127.116.11
Department of Public Affairs
Secretariat of His Highness the Aga Khan