In 20 days 16 students from Europe, the U.S. and Senegal came together and became one loving building family spending 5 hours a day under the hot African sun mixing 24 batches of cob together daily to add 30 cm to the 40m2 3-room house located in Yene Kao, just an hour south of Dakar. They came from all walks of life: Lena, the Austrian art history student, Morisha, the New-York based masseuse, Barbara, the New York former jazz singer turned wood jewelry artist, Lorenzo, the Sicilian raw vegan mountain boy, Bosco, the Dakarian civil engineering student, Saco, the New York-based Japanese musician and urban permaculturist, Beverly, the Santa Cruz political and environmental activist and Kira, the California outdoors sports enthusiast specializing in skiing.
Within a few batches of mixing cob with their new Senegalese friends: Aziz, Wuz, Big Mamadou, Medun, Small Mamadou, Ablai, Mbarou and Oumy, there was no difference anymore, as always happens with cob. The mud joins. The initial separateness becomes moot and unconditional love happens. We are focused on raising a building together and with our bare hands and feet mixing and compressing the material, molding it, tossing it, placing it, shaping it, thumbing it, trimming it and starting over again…day after day…watching the walls rise slowly but surely.
CHeck this out: https://youtu.be/6du4m7nATXQ
Each morning we arrive to see the good work from the day before, the walls turning into a house, “ndanka ndanka” or “little by little”. Cob building is slow and satisfying. You cannot put the walls up in a day, like in mainstream building, with industrial materials that will begin rotting within a short time because they don’t breathe and accumulate moisture. Windows, shelves, altars and niches all go in along the way, and when the cob walls are done the walls are done: the insulation, the structure and the surface. Same with the floor.
In 20 days, this talented group of new cob builders built 100 feet of 6-foot walls. The original project was supposed to be half the length, for a 25m2 guest house. Clearly we would have wrapped it all up with this power group. But it wasn’t about muscle power, but rather chi, prana and “katan” as they call it in Wolof, the native language here in Senegal. Not only was our group split evenly between Senegalese and “toubabs” (foreigners), but it was also split evenly between females and males, builders and non-builders (at least before we started).
Whatever happened here, the chemistry was such that each day, despite the ups and downs of physical and emotional conditions, we were excited to build. Today January 21, almost 7 weeks later (with at least 5 days and all weekends of no building) the walls are done. This is fast cob and with the African sun setting our walls quickly each day, we were able to build 6 feet of wall, lay two coats of floor and put on the base plaster coat, all while having the best time ever! I am so proud of this group and grateful to the hosts Hans and Roos, Oliver, Aziz, Viva and Sissy for all your work and support in the success of this project.
On to the island of São Nicolau in Cabo Verde for the next long-term workshop building a beautiful round cob yoga studio in the new Cachaço Ecovillage!