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Technical know-how in the indigenous knowledge system underlying Batammariba traditional architecture in Togo and Benin.

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The desire to revitalise indigenous architecture and the built environment through socio-cultural, political and bio-physical relevance has created a strong need for the understanding of cultures and traditional built environments, especially in the developing countries. This study aims to fill the gap in understanding indigenous knowledge in relation to the production and maintenance of traditional architecture and settlements. This can be achieved by examining how such knowledge is depicted and communicated by the traditional master builder in the absence of written language; as well as exploring the forms, quantities and measurements, structural processes, thermal control and waterproofing systems used by the builders, and ecological resource management. The methodology used in this study emanates from the perspective of social anthropology. It includes informal interviews with local informants, participatory observation and reading, and interpreting written documentation of the Batammariba people and their indigenous knowledge systems. Information regarding prevailing technical know-how is obtained through investigations into readily observable facts and a comparative analysis of structure, context and style. It emphasises the importance of process rituals, building processes and technology, and an analysis of architecture in the context of both everyday use and special events. Findings of this study revealed that the works of Batammariba builders demonstrated structural stability, consistency in form, quantities and measurements, site layouts and resource choices in their traditional buildings and settlements. Furthermore the study substantiated the coding and sharing of such know-how in the absence of a written knowledge system. It therefore demonstrated that there is an unlimited reservoir of aesthetic, technical and conceptual wisdom locked up in the minds of traditional builders in Africa. The synthetic process so characteristic of the work of the great master builders of yesterday should be the answer to present day architectural problems. The present day generation of master builders all over Batammaribaland consists of a group of intelligent and active craftsmen, who are capable of adopting indigenous technology to modern needs if given an opportunity. The future generation of architects has much to learn from both past and present day traditional builders. The study also suggests a wide range of possible strategies to mainstream technical know-how of indigenous knowledge systems, as well as improve the way in which traditional indigenous architecture is synthesized in contemporary.


Ph. D. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2013.


Sustainable architecture--Togo., Sustainable architecture--Benin., Architecture--Togo., Architecture--Benin., Somba (African people)--Togo., Somba (African people)--Benin, Ethnoscience--Togo., Ethnoscience--Benin., Theses--Architecture., Somba (African people)--Housing