ARCHITECTURE STYLE IN WEST AFRICA
The spread and evolution of architecture in West Africa is a dynamic subject that can be used to help unlock human experience and evolutionary knowledge about both the past and future. In seeking to understand this subject we are given an opportunity to penetrate into the inner reality of African continental experiences - into the heart and ways of a given people, culture and time space. To understand this phenomenon is to confront the actualization of architecture as a composite subject/discipline that is not mono dimensional but rather multi dynamic. The thrust of this discipline comments on a spectrum of cultural factors and/or artifacts that extend to include both the aesthetic and socio-cultural internal mechanisms ('reality(s)') of a given people, place and time period. The challenge of archeology and architecture in this context is to develop a field of relevant and related postulates that can serve to guide exploratory scholarship in the coming millennium. The subject of West African architecture provides a a 'fresh challenge' to examine composite progressionalism and human experience in West Africa as well as the challenge of understanding what component factors underline the construction of identity. In seeking to understand this subject both archeology and architecture become unified components in the aesthetic ''unwakening' (memory)' of a given culture ( the 'art' of culture ) - archeology in this context is akin to 'the footprints' of our species where the discipline of architecture opens the door to its possible value systems and social reality dynamics ( including political dynamics). The subject feels like a giant detective story that is slowly unfolding.
Professor Marks has established three categories to examine the dynamic implications of architecture in West Africa; that being 1) Architecture as a symptom of social status 2) Architecture as an expression of religious expression and 3) Architecture as symbolic of cultural identity. In the first category the Gambia-Geba region and the articulation of Luso-African ethnicity provides an opportunity to examine the 'vibrational-backdrop' that accompanied the world of trade and human relationships in that time period. Social status in this context is a board conceptual term that seeks to comment on several different factors that give insight into the mind set and tendencies of a given community and 'way of being'. In the first attempt to understand this phenomenon Professor Marks introduces the reader to the Luso-African community and establishes the complexities of the Portuguese trading communities in the early 15oo's. The phenomenon of status awareness can be noted in the very opening components of the first encounter between the Africans and the Portuguese. This is so because the world of trade in Africa, as in the west, has long been connected to 'the discoveries' from distant lands ( and/or communities). Africa itself can be viewed as a constant continuation of rising and falling cultures. That status would be associated with trade, and more importantly, with the acquisition of 'goods' is consistent with what we have learned about human nature, but this same attribute would also provide a primary 'wedge' into the 'door' of African identity and it is at this point where one can sense the vibrational 'winds' that led into the modern era. The phenomenon of individual and/or community status in Africa would see a natural curiosity about the Portuguese that would see periods of rise and fall- but the emergence of the Luso-African community seems to be a point of definition in the accelerated components that led to the breakdown of composite Africa. This is so because the Luso-African community was the community that extended the 'status materials (components)' of trans-European tendencies into sub-Saharian Africa.
It cannot be underestimated that the Luso-Africans people practiced Christianity as a component in their concept of Identity. To understand this religious spiritual alignment is to understand that the extended implications of that 'devotion' would profoundly recast the spiritualism in that sector of West Africa. The conversion of the Luso-African people was in marked contrast to the established 'spiritual alignments' of the non-Muslim people in the Casamance and northern Guinea-Bissau areas. The classical tendency up to that time period was for each community tribal group to create its own religious shrines and rituals. As such, the projected trading experiences of the Luso-African people would be a factor that created a stable symbolic component for ritual-affinity ( ie. Christianity) in a landscape whose primary tendencies were mutable and independently directed. To make matters even more complex, the spirit of the continent has long recognized and applauded new ideas and invention ( even more- to incorporate new experiences as part of a composite life philosophical position). The spread of Portuguese architecture would also give insight into the complex political changes that were reshaping the continent. The discipline of Architecture in this context would come to reflect on the expanded dimensions of the accelerated slave trade. Professor Marks writes of the evolution of 1) fortress constructions 2) the emergence of concentric circle structures and 3) the development of transitional space strategies in ones home that responded to trade business dynamics in West Africa.
The concept of Architecture as a component in cultural identity is expressed on several different levels in Professor Marks paper. 1) The identification of African leaders with 'the Portuguese style' would extend to include inter European/Loso-African structures in their communities/villages- as part of their status objects ( while at the same time weakening their own ritual structures). In seeking to understand this subject we are able to examine the state of African cultural and creative dynamics before the onslaught of the slave trade. Professor Marks paper also establishes ----clear particulars that can be used to formulate and speculate on transitional Africa in the 1500's. 1) the historical placement of the Floups people ( including the breakaway sector 'the Arriatas') 2) the vibrational and actual intensity of the Mande people decision to accelerate slavery and what that decision posed to the composite people of the West African region ( later composite Africa) 3) that the consideration of trade and protection would be factors that were expressed in the architecture as a practical inclusion 4) that the dynamic implications of extended Portuguese architecture is not separate from the political instability that West Africa would experience as a composite continental region-state (sector).