Architecture of the Middle Niger River in Mali:

Conformity, Innovation, and Diversity



There are surprising varieties in Sudanic-style mosques along the Middle Niger. The form is in flux and has evolved immensely, as documented by current and past photographs. The mosques at Mopti, Djenne and San were built in the early years of the creation of French West Africa, and they seem to have reflected one specific visual idea that has changed in recent years. The kibla in all three mosques has three minarets. The construction is of mud bricks with an outer coating of mud. Certainly, these structures could not have been built without the permission of colonial authorities who may have underwritten the costs of building. The mosque at Hamdallahi (a city built specifically for Islamic religious reasons) pre-dated these other mosques and no longer exists. From what is known about it, it had a very different look from any of these other more recent structures.

Despite the questions of origins, the Great Mosques of San, Mopti, and Djenne are among the most striking examples of the Sudanic style in the Middle Niger. For more images of architecture from the Middle Niger, see the companion web site