The underrated Ancient African Architecture is shadowed by Egypt’s wonders that also hold the glory of being a structure that seems to be impossible to build even today. The Africans have been under the Christian and Islamic leaders and merchants, hence heavily influenced by their design. African Architecture is unique and diverse and aligns with African culture. African Architecture uses materials, including thatch, wood, mud, mudbrick, stone, and rammed earth. These structures are cultural heritage and their preservation and conservation are necessary.

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Clay Palace of Ghardaïa_©Sun Shine

Why Preserve?

The vast continent of Africa has been ruled by many people from different parts of the world throughout history. The kingdoms, which were spread across several geographical areas, took their distinctive styles and cultures with them. Also, the indigenous tribes had their unique style that represented their culture. Similar to that, Islam had a significant impact on its architecture and culture, creating numerous mud tombs and places of worship. These structures became the identity of the African culture and lifestyle holding irreplaceable value. It represents the cultural diversity in several regions of the continent, differentiating from one place to another.

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Great Mosque of Djenné_©Trevor Kittelty

One example of preservation is Mali, which during the 16th century had 100,000 inhabitants, where the mosques and holy sites played an essential role in spreading Islam. The city became an important centre of learning in Africa and its libraries were the repository of at least 700,000 historical manuscripts on art, science and medicine, as well as copies of the Qur’an. These scriptures hold the richness of African history and intellectual life. After that, Iraq and Syria witnessed the outright destruction of Islamic, pre-Islamic, Christian, and Jewish history. The need to restore heritage has become far more than a mere cultural issue.

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Meroë pyramids in Sudan_©Martchan

Hindrances while Conservations and Preservations

The African government played an important role in safeguarding ancient African buildings. The countries have procured several legal frameworks for the heritage sites. Collaboration and effective strategies with several international organizations like UNICEF and others promote conservation. Even so, these parties are not upholding their end of the bargain, nor are the developed legal structures. There is a lack of proper structure and unity among the stakeholders for the cause due to several shortcomings.

One of the reasons is that Heritage protection is often not given sufficient resources when compared to other endeavours such as defence and health. Additionally, there are not enough archaeologists and other groups, and projects are not thoroughly accessed before beginning. Although international cooperation is a driving force for this cause, there is still much potential for development because of the lack of resources and inventory in the majority of the countries. As Africa strives to catch up in terms of economic development, more emphasis is being placed on the economic potential of extractive industries, such as oil, gas and mining.

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Hikma Religious and Secular Complex_© Atelier Masōmī

Not to add that hostilities have escalated in many African countries. The Great Lake region from the West and North Africa is the most endangered place, it also houses several important sites like places of worship. These conflicts are mainly around the cultural agenda pushing them towards several holy sites and religious places. These situations force the people to be driven away, which should be the help of good governance to control and shut down these conflicts.

Techniques for Protection

It is possible to protect these constructions from several threats that the surrounding proposes and internal conflicts. Making the heritage viable for future generations should be done gradually and with smaller steps. In this case, the Government, People and other stakeholders will be responsible for an equal collaborative environment. This will allow for the Preservation and Conservation of the Ancient structure for the betterment. The strategies that should be adopted for its fulfilment are-

  • African institutions must use local knowledge to teach cultural conservation. To best equip graduates to preserve cultural heritage, such teaching should incorporate ideas from other fields, such as planning, environmental studies, and conservation.
  • Without reliance on International cooperation, it is essential to establish proper practices locally for managing African sites through new research. Heritage conservation involves a wide range of stakeholders, and it is important to balance their interests without favouring any one group over another.
  • There should be proper measures for the Awareness and documentation of the several ancient structures. This will allow us to study the construction methodology that existed during that era and will play a role in teaching the new generations and reviving the other structures.
  • It is necessary to pique public interest and participation towards it with the help of cultural centres and museums. These public places will serve as a place for community engagement and appreciation for the lost culture.
  • Several countries should establish traditional management systems and architectural heritage centres for preservation.
African Heritage House, Kenya_©African Heritage House

Ancient African structures preservation is an essential feat, as these structures survived for centuries and have become the symbol of culture. This structure is the symbol of culture and acts as the identity of the People living in those areas. These structures act as a medium through which several international people understand and learn about indigenous cultures. The influences of several countries that ruled over the years are visible in these structures. The diversity in several regions makes a classic case of Complexity and Contradiction all over the continent.


  1. Chirikure, S. (2013). Heritage conservation in Africa: The good, the bad, and the challenges. South African Journal of Science, [online] 109(1-2), pp.1–3. Available at: [Accessed 12 Sep. 2023].
  2. Contributor, C.F., Staff (2021). The Early African Architecture. [online] AfricaOTR. Available at: [Accessed 12 Sep. 2023].
  3. Matador Network. (n.d.). 54 structures that prove African architecture is widely underrated. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Sep. 2023].
  4. Twumasi-Ampofo, K., Oppong, R.A. and Quagraine, V.K. (2020). The State of Architectural Heritage Preservation in Ghana: A Review. Cogent Arts & Humanities, 7(1), p.1812183. doi:
  5. UNESCO (2022). Cultural heritage: 7 successes of UNESCO’s preservation work | UNESCO. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Sep. 2023].


Abhist is a unique individual who believes in “Living Life in the Moment” Apart from his passion for Architecture, he spent most of his time Ridiculously watching Anime and listening to EDM Music.