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The dwellings of hundreds of African ethnic groups offer a variety of conceptions and building practices that contradict the widespread image of the primitive hut commonly attributed to rural Africa. Each house or group of houses is designed not only to shelter the members of a family, but also to enable intimate communication with ancestors and divinities and to harmonize with the forces of nature. Such an architecture thrives in a community context where it is simply not acceptable to plunder resources from the earth, and resources are used only in accordance with their availability, in quantity, and at times of year that minimize environmental impact. This cultural dimension and its realization through different architectural practices are illustrated in this work with examples taken from dwellings across numerous ethnic groups in sub-Saharan West Africa. Drawings, plans, axonometric projections, and photographs show the beauty and complexity of this architecture that is a spiritual praxis-as much place of life as work of art.
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