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Meet Five Mud Masons

Konbaba Tennepo,  master mason
Boubacar Kouroumansé,  mason
Lassina Kouroumansé, mason
Salif Droufo, mason
Almamy Kouroumansé, student and apprentice
Konbaba Tennepo, master mason – 77 years old

"My name is Konbaba Tennepo and I am from Djenné. I do every job as if it were my own house, without any defects. All of Djenné knows me for this. It’s true that I am 77 years old. Other masons in Djenné my age have put down their trowels. My children plead 'Papa, stop working', but I cannot because I love this trade. I cannot leave my work."

Boubacar Kouroumansé, mason - 52 years old

"My name is Boubacar, but everyone knows me by my nickname Bayere. I was born in Djenné in 1961. Masonry is an old profession in my family. I came to masonry from both sides of my family: from my mother's side and from my father's. It was our people, the Boso, who founded Djenné. Nothing can be done to the town without the masons' involvement. Everything we do is linked to our tradition. Djenné is my school."

Lassina Kouroumansé, mason -49 years old

"I was born in 1964 in Djenné and began my apprenticeship at the age of 13 under my uncle. After 10 years I acquired the necessary skills to be a mason and today I work as a team with Boubacar Kouroumansé. Since my earliest childhood, I never wanted to do anything else but masonry. All my life I have wanted to be a mason, to work with the earth and the mud. No other profession appeals to me the way masonry does. There is no job like it."

Salif Droufo, mason 33 years old

I was born in Djenné in 1980. My father was a fisherman, not a mason so I inherited my profession from my mother’s side of the family. Her father and brothers are all masons. I was first apprenticed to my maternal uncle and later worked as an apprentice under Lassina Kouroumansé. For the last ten years I have been a mason. The difference between an apprentice and a mason is that as an apprentice must carry out the master's orders. But if you are a mason, you have all the responsibility, it's you who decides everything. If bricks need to be ordered, it's you ; if a building needs to be constructed from plans, it’s you. I'd like my own son to follow my path and become a mason too. I’d like that very much.

Almamy Kouroumansé, student and apprentice - 20 years old

I was born in Djenné in 1993. My father, Boubacar Kouroumansé, is a mason. I began my formal schooling in Djenné up through the ninth grade. After graduating, I wanted to be a mason as I had already started working in the traditional trade with my family. But, I wanted to perfect what I would do in masonry so I selected an institution in Bamako called ISICA [l'Institut des Sciences de l'Information de la Communication et des Arts] where there are courses in joinery, plumbing, masonry and steel construction so that I can complete the masonry education I began at home. Perhaps with my studies, if I finish soon, I will have gained new knowledge. With what I learned I can work with what the elder generation, like my father, have left. But I cannot modify what exists. I can only beneficially add to what the elder generation has left, and gain experience by their side.

In Their Own Words

The Masons of Djenné

The Masons of Djenné is a film created for the exhibition "Mud Masons of Mali" at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. The Djenné masons speak about the history of the city; the building profession, and the challenges and changes they face today. Subtitled in English. A French subtitled version is also available below.

Les Maçons de Djenné

Le film "Les Maçons de Djenné" a été créé pour l'exposition « Mud Masons of Mali » au Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle de l'Institution Smithsonian. Les maçons parlent de l'histoire de leur ville ; de leur métier, et des défis et des transformations culturelles auxquels ils sont confrontés aujourd'hui. Voir ce film sous-titré en français.

Mud Masons of Djenné: City of Mud

Mud Masons of Djenné: Trading Secrets

Mud Masons of Djenné: Changing Times

Mud Masons of Djenné: Travels and Troubles

Les Maçons de Djenné (Le film est sous-titré en français)


Djenné Masons

Konbaba Tennepo
Boubacar (Bayeré) Kouroumansé
Lassina (Al-Haji) Kouroumansé
Salif Droufo
Almamy (Fa) Kouroumansé

Executive Producer

Mary Jo Arnoldi


Trevor Marchand


Pete Durgerian

Production Assistant

John Heywood


Bilagalama Sissoko

Additional Camerawork

Salahina (Mody) Sounfountera (Djenné)
Trevor Marchand (Leiden)


Wilfred Willey


Tevor Marchand

Additional Photography

Barbara Frank
Joseph Brunet-Jailly
Bilagalama Sissoko
Donald Hurlbert, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution
Dan Cole, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution


Rae Durgerian


Lassana Diabaté
Toumani Kouyaté

Music Production, Bamako

Paul Chandler

Audio Post-Production

Al Green

Special Thanks to

Annette Schmidt, Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden
Michael Spierenburg
Samuel Sidibé, Musée National du Mali
British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences
The Netherlands Embassy in Bamako, Mali
Salahina Sounfountera, Mali Tours, Bamako
Indiana University Press
Lucy Durán, School of Oriental and African Studies, London
Violet Diallo
Geert Mommersteeg
Pierre Maas
Charlotte Joy
The Atlantic Fish Shop, Leiden
Al-Hijrah Mosque in Leiden
The Dutch masons of Koninklijke Woudenberg B.V.
Anna Portisch

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