Architecture of the Middle Niger River in Mali:

Conformity, Innovation, and Diversity



The main route from Segou to Djenne and Mopti leads through the town of San, where the beautiful Sudanic mosque is a major attraction. This mosque, also dating to the early twentieth century, is more sculptural than the mosques at Mopti and Djenne. Its quarter round windows, used everywhere except the eastern façade, are a distinctive feature. The detailed view of its western façade against the cloudless sky highlights the prominent star and crescent symbols (Fig. 8). By sharp contrast with the Great Mosque of Mopti, the timbers at San are much less regular in number and in their placement, and they are not carefully shaped.

The three minarets of the San mosque kibla give the building the look of a smaller version of the mosque at Djenne (Fig. 6). Being broadly reflective of the Djenne mosque yet with its own distinguishing details, its identity is fixed as being similar to and second to the larger and more famous structure. In its arrangement of three towers on the kibla, it is even similar to the mosque at Mopti. Photographs taken during the twentieth century reveal that the building has undergone many changes.

The overall color of the three mosques differs in an interesting way. Djenne has decidedly earthen or terra cotta tones that come alive in the morning sunlight. By contrast, the mosques of San and Mopti have definite gray tones, with San being whiter and Mopti being more rose-colored in the bright sunlight.