The first week of our cob oven workshop in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal was full of a cultural diversity of
human energy, world music beats, delicious large shared dishes of fish, rice, veggies prepared in a myriad of ways, story-telling, learning, good exercise, hard work and beautiful, rich artistic expression.
We had 3 young children who learned to make their own cob mix, a range of ages, ethnicities, backgrounds and languages. In the end we were all connected by the mud, from whence we have all come and to which we shall all return.
After the intense and frustrating concentration of building a 6 foot diameter laterite rock foundation with cement mortar, we began to have fun preparing the mudbath for the straw. Finally, the mud stompin’ begins.
The insulation, cob base, and bricks were set with utmost precision for a level oven floor. The sand dome was formed like a day at the beach. Each material we work with our hands creates a new massage on the skin, a new relationship to learn between our handwork and the result we are looking for, new skills we perfect with each minute of practice. For some it comes easily and well, for others it requires more disciplined attention and effort. We all watch each other and learn.
Time for the oven layering around the sand…a long day. But we must complete the oven today or the sand dome will dry and fall. One more push. 16 hands working together making mix and forming it to the dome around and around. Finally we are starting to see the oven take shape. Even if it looks lost on the large foundation, each successive layer of insulation, cob mix and plaster will bring it closer to the edge of the base.
And ultimately, the excitement of cutting open the door and digging out wheelbarrows and wheelbarrows of sand out of the new oven. An endless stream of sand pours out. So much sand that we will reuse for the plaster mix.
Ahhhhh, there’s my oven. Beautiful sculpted Ghanaian symbols representing “harmony”, “energy” and “Mother Earth”, as well as an African sun, an elephant, stars and a wavy border adorn the new community oven. This oven now has an identity.
It is an African oven, a mystical oven, representing the harmony of the people working together to build it, the energy required, and the Mother with her pregnant belly made of Earth. As always things happen exactly as they should. Blessings on this first cob oven in this area of Senegal. May it last many generations and cook many fine foods to be savored by all. And may more cob ovens flourish through the land here, as an expression of love for Mother Earth and gratitude for her gifts.
to see all the photos of the workshop!