I came across the meme below a few years ago and decided to share it on my Facebook page.

I left the continent at the age of 5, so at the time I shared this meme I only knew that yes there were probably “mud huts” in Africa and that I didn’t actually remember what an African city looked like.

Tired of constantly being asked if I or everybody in Africa lived in mud huts because I just didn’t know the answer, I wanted to show that yes Africans are just as “civilized” and “modern” as any western country. Questions like these tend to come from an Anti-Black, uninformed, and a debatably racist place.

Disregarding the fact that the meme refers to Africa like it’s a country, and makes it seem like we either have one or the other; I think it’s important that we shouldn’t always try to prove how western we can be; and that there’s no shame in admitting we have both and more. That’s what makes us different.

Yes there are cities in Africa

We rightfully bring up the fact that we also have cities influenced by our colonizers when asked such questions, but elaborating on our own architectural history seems like a more beneficial option for the long term. The value of Africans as civilized people shouldn’t be based on how western we are or can be.

This page only just begins to give us an idea of how diverse African architecture was. From the materials used to the shapes and layouts.

Drawing of Benin City made by an English officer, 1897

Mud doesn’t only exist in Africa

African countries are not the only countries to use mud brick to build houses yet we only tend to condescendingly talk about the use of mud brick in the African context. Like I stated in a previous article, there are people living in different conditions everywhere, but in a system set to make black people look less than aswell as unintelligent, this comes as no surprise.

There’s no shame in our history

No stone should be left unturned when discussing decolonization. Architecture is not a critically but nonetheless worthy part of that.

Without what generations before us created we as a people would not be here, and how will you know where you’re going if you don’t know or accept where you’re coming from. Our histories are rich and our cultures are rich. Let’s use that for our futures as well.

Three story house under construction, Kossoh Town, Sierra Leone.

Other countries are not made to feel less than for their own forms of architecture. I often wonder how differently Africa would have evolved if we were never colonized or majorly influenced.

So next time somebody asks you about mud huts ask them what country and what era.

Written by Fatmata Kamara
20 year old Sierra Leonean born, Australian raised photographer, writer and creative.