FEW GRASS HOUSES
'"Excellently observed" answered Candide, "but let
us take care of our garden"'. Last line of Candide
When buildings were
needed but there was almost no money, I always turned to the traditional
way of building, to the Mozambican vernacular to make a beginning. It
is the way most buildings in Mozambique are still made and almost everyone
knows how to do them. The sticks and the reeds, the mud and the grass
are all around, to be had for free or for very little money. Yet it was
only as a last recourse that such proposals would be accepted.
The blacks always wanted a casa de
branco - a white man's house, instead. They were ashamed of their
own wonderful, most suitable and economical grass houses.
These few grass houses are the more adventurous
of a number of quite straightforward groups of huts and a couple of long
Church of the Twelve Apostles at
Gala Massala in the Maputo Province, was conceived as a huge round
hut composed of twelve segments. A segment for each Apostle. The walls
are of mud and sticks and have seats along their inner sides There
is an inner ring of poles which carries most of the roof and a skylight
at the centre over the altar, which is a section of a very large and
old tree. The church was much needed by a large Anglican community
in the bush of elephants. They already had a mission school and a
few other buildings at Gala Massala. It would have been built if the
Brazilian missionary who was quite enthusiastic at the beginning had
not got cold feet.
of Huts for Maciene was summarily dismissed by the Bishop
as unsuitable. It celebrates the traditional components of a "kraal"
in the outer screen wall. In the grouping of the huts and in the
round family stands in each family hut. It makes the sign of the
cross tour times, with the crossed water channels, with the screen
walls, with the huts and as a crossing of field paths. The central
hut, the altar's house, was to have been built by the community.
Each of the smaller huts was to be built by each family. Each family
cockpit was to be raised a few steps above the ground. The inner
face of the screen wall would have carried seats and four corners
were to be planted with huge spherical, dark green cashew nut trees.
Nursery School in the Caniço is a village of many houses.
I designed it and built it for the Obra da Infância, an association
of good ladles that looked after abandoned children and orphans. The
association had very little money and the Municipality would not allow
any permanent building in the Caniço. As it was, we had to
make three attempts to build the school. The first two times we were
stopped by the Municipal Police. We built it with a bush carpenter
and unskilled labourers. It is made from sticks, reeds and grass.
The windows and doors were given to us - they came from demolished
buildings in the city. The school had a vegetable garden attached
to it. It was tended by the older children from the Caniço
and by the orphans. Every day an excellent vegetable soup was made
from the school's own garden. They followed Candide's advice - they
took care of their garden.