Mali Zebala : Village Houses

Virtually every house in Zebala is built from mud brick. The bricks are then plastered over with a mud plaster to make the outside smooth. A corrugated tin roof is then put on top. All the houses are interlinked by passages and walk ways. It’s very difficult to decide where one family unit’s set of houses finish and another’s begin. There are few walls round groups of houses. Finding one’s way around is a real adventure and I got lost lots of times trying to find the little shop only yards from where I was living! Shops are not marked, they look like any other building, but usually you can tell them by the people going in and out. Inside, there are a few shelves with things like tinned tomato concentrate, little boxes of Chinese green tea (called gunpowder), twists of sugar, sachets of washing powder .. and .. amazingly .. boxes of chewing gum!People live outside their houses and use the house itself for storage and sleeping. The insides are very dark. There are often window openings with a shutter of corrugate, but these are more often left closed than open.

Outside the houses people sit on low stools and cook, or make things. All life happens in the small courtyards between houses. Often the cooking is done on an open fire with a pot hanging or standing on three stones. There are wells dotted around and there is a constant flow of people to these bringing water to compounds. Washing is laid on walls, on the ground and any other free space, and the dust is shaken off when it is dry.