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Talensi traditional houses in Ghana

Talensi traditional houses in Ghana are centered on the design and construction of homesteads, promoting their indigenous cultural identity and demonstrating the value of social ties. The construction process involves men constructing and roofing structures, with women covering them. The Talensi community combines innovation, local knowledge, and resources to create low-cost, sustainable communities. The standardized construction schedule ensures transparency and reliability, promoting sustainability and reusability of traditional materials.

The traditional building of Talensi is principally centered on the design and construction of homesteads. The architectural circular form of these traditional buildings, its homogenous layout, choice of construction materials, and process promotes their indigenous cultural identity, stands as an embodiment of the value of social ties, represents a substantial projection of hierarchical relations that make up a family or clan. 

Talensi is an area in the Upper East region of Ghana in West Africa, culturally and administratively termed Talensis. House Building among Talensi is guided by a solid sense of kinship, characterized by a cooperative effort by the clan to which a person belongs.

Tengzug village, Nothern Ghana photo by

Traditionally, the homestead is identified as a Talensi man’s focus, source of interests, prime initiatives, deepest emotional connections, values, shelter, and esteem of life. Talensi’s view on house construction is that men put up structures and roof them while women cover the structures for habitation, but the contribution of women is not counted, though the entire construction process involves members of varied ages, social standing, skills, and genders. 

The fusion of innovation, local knowledge, and resources promotes low-cost and sustainable communities tailored to their specifications. The traditional houses of the Talensi are circular with flat roofs although in recent years there has been the introduction of rectangular forms. The buildings are constructed with mud. Wall construction usually includes hand-molding kneaded laterite into standard spherical sizes and using the balls to construct the wall layer by layer. Finishing also involves a standardized process of plastering the wall surfaces with a mixture of mud, cow dung, and juice from boiled empty locust bean tree pods. 

The juice acts as a stabilizer, hardener, and waterproofing. As a standard schedule, traditional Talensi construction normally happens in the dry season between December and April. This period is without rainfall and the entire construction process, from site preparation to wall and floor finishing, is planned in this period. The need to standardize the construction schedule within this period is further strengthened by the fact that most traditional construction participants are farmers and would be engaged in farming in the rainy season. 

The standardized scheduling in the dry season is transparent and understood by all participants, thereby enhancing the reliability of the commitment of the entire team to planned activities for projects. This tends to stabilize the flow of construction activities within the planned duration. Sustainability through the indigenous building culture of Talensi is environmentally friendly associated with less generation of waste. This fundamentally stems from the recyclability and reusability of traditional materials. 

Another dimension focuses on the ability of the traditional building materials to merge back into the natural environment when they are not in use. 

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