Dogons are ancient African tribes in the south of river Niger, who had refused Islamization and generally everything that is connected with the development of civilization. They still exist and are still separated from others, building their houses with clay-stone as before, wearing colourful clothes and living as happily as centuries ago. The constant clicking of tourists’ cameras does not get on their nerves either, but how would such big culture fit in a small objective?
Years ago a friend of Le Corbusier also traveled to this area, and I know for sure that he touched Dogon’s fence-rubbles with the same astonished face as other “children of civilization”. This surprise on his face remained for a long time and when he returned, he brought his friends so much material and impression that everybody was infected with “Dogomania” and it was enough for them until the end of life.
The beginning of the twentieth century was a difficult time. Classic style was stuck in the throat of painters as well as architects, and the raging mob was demanding something new. Corbusier was a restless person, he was a lover of painting, then architecture and at the same time he was also criticizing others. He realized that whatever he saw and heard in Dogon’s tribesas well as rough building materials, which showed ascetic soul more sharply, would be good food for the “starving masses” of modern architecture. He was right: When he poured this Dogon culture on Marseilles, whether it was sheds or mine ventilation … the rough texture of the outer walls (raw concrete), suddenly the crowd calmed down, accepted what was given. Modern architecture rose to its feet as if it was it impossible to develop differently.
Le Corbusier reinforced his position in the modern architecture with his other works: the shrine in Notre Dam Dew-O, the so-called Ronshan’s Chapel, St. Mary’s Monastery La turet etc.
However, Le was not alone any more, modern minded architects and artists were standing behind him. Everything calmed down, new culture accelerated and found its place in various movements.
After the death of Le Corbusier St. Peter’s church was built in the city of Pirmin. I still think that if you do not know its purpose, it will be impossible to guess from the exterior, that this is the house of God especially since it is virtually impossible to detect a small cross. The angled truncated cone shape of the church is impressive. The material is concrete of course and how can you not notice connection with Dogon’s houses: similarly to their habitats, there are also small windows cut from which light enters the chapel hall. There are 3 pieces on the whole: one circular and two rectangular ones. Their walls are paintedred, yellow and green and the lighting in the building is the same. Here is my favorite detail: the circular cuts on top of the altar, in the form of stars, from which light already enters. I am watching it constantly and want to continue doing it over and over again. On the outer wall, on top of these cuts there are arches. The other walls are also loaded with somehow ascetic, but still subtle forms, the ones that would be customary for the Dogons.
Night light is violet at times, or bluish-greenish. The interior is colourful as well. So what that this is a church, are not colourful lights more promising? Don’t you have a more subliminal feeling?
The Dogons also love various colours: they paint everything in cheerful colors, dress in colourful clothes and have a lot of colourful butterflies in their souls, otherwise how would they be able to endure so many centuries, and how would they come to the present day.
Author: Nanuka Zaalishvili
English Edit: Nino Namoradze
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