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Photographs by
Christien Jaspars
Djenné is a small town in the centre of Mali, and has been one of the most important religious centres in West Africa since time immemorial. Its enormous mosque bears witness to this. The central location allowed the town to fulfil a spearhead role in commerce. Caravans, with gold as their most important trading commodity, came to Djenné to trade it for the highly prized salt from the northern desert regions.
The famous mosque of Djenné rises on its bank of clay and sand above the market square in the town centre. The loam plinth allows this most sacred of buildings for the Djenné community to be displayed to its best advantage. The house of the gardien controls access to the mosque.
Tall columns support the loam coated wooden roof. Inside, two staircases provide access to the flat roof. The long rows of pillars and the paucity of light from above create the sensation of infinity in this entirely loam-coated interior. The coolness and the presence of thousands of sleeping bats reinforce the sacral experience of those who set foot in this temple of Islam.

The architectural refinements, expressed in the detailing, construction and decoration, betray the high level of wealth and affluence in the history of Djenné society.