Updated: Mar 18, 2021

Dogon country, Mali


The Dogon people is an ancient tribe located in Mali, with a rich and well preserved traditional culture. Due to religious persecutions, they moved near the Bandiagara escarpment centuries ago, lands that seemed strategic at the time because they were easily defensible.

- Dogon village on the Bandiagara cliffs -

Due to the inhospitable environment they settled in, the Dogon architecture appears really specific and peculiar. Some of the villages or even built within the cliffs, blending perfectly into their sandstone steep landscape. They have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1989.

Villages organization

- Dogon village

The Dogon villages are usually located near a source of water. They are developed around the main house, called the Ginna dwelling, which is reserved for the spiritual leader of the community. Houses are built very close together, frequently sharing walls and floors.

- Ginna dwellings -

The villages are dotted with granaries, square at the base and topped with a conical straw "hat", in which millet is stored. There are two types of granaries, a female and a male, the latter usually larger and higher than the first one.

Earth and Stone Architecture

Some dwellings and granaries are built from mud bricks supported by rocks, then coated with straw and mud. Others are made from a dry stone masonry technic, plastered to seal the gaps. The structures are usually raised from the ground to protect them from termites and rodents. The granaries roofs are made from solid clay, with a thatched roof, and the houses usually have a flat accessible roof.

- Mud bricks, straw and mud coating -

Preserving cultural identity through vernacular Architecture

The Dogon culture and history can be reflected in their vernacular constructions, that is why it is important to its people to perpetuate those building traditions. The materials and technics used, as well as the villages locations and development, are telling the story of the Dogon tribe, and are therefore an important part of Mali's heritage.