City of Bricks






Pigment Prints

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 7 + 3 AP













Mudbricks are what the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, is made of. They are the material soul of the city. Antananarivo’s mudbrick production sites lie on the city’s outskirts. Half wasteland and half swamp, the land that rice growers and mudbrick producers of the area use and inhabit, officially belongs to the state. It has been squatted for generations. Governments have tried to evict the squatters, but the right to adverse posession has guaranteed their stay so far. Recently the land has attracted international investors. The pressure is rising.

I met him at the crags over the river. He said, ’not to take pictures too close to the water, for this would disturb the spirits‘. He said, his real profession was that of a musician.

– ‚You shovel the mud out of the swamp and drain it‘, he said. ‚You need a mass of clay, a work-pole, a drying area. You fill your cast with mud and screed the top. You carry the brick into the sun, pull the cast off and…Voilà! You have a mudbrick. A skilled worker can produce up to one hundred bricks a day‘, he said.

After the bricks have dried in the sun for three to four weeks the fire guild will be called. They rearrange the bricks into solid blocks – up to five meters high –  spreading papyrus and carbon powder between each layer. Air shafts and a crown of solid earth complete the structure. The firing turns each block into a furnace. After they have cooled off, women will carry the bricks to the main road and pile them up. You can come with your car or carriage and buy directly off the producer. For larger quantities one can contact the truck drivers on site and make a deal for the transport.

– ‚Even before you lay the foundation of a house you order bricks in respect of the spirits‘, he said. ‚Houses for the living are built with clay. Houses for the dead with stone. Tonight we ‚re going to celebrate‘, he said. ‚A new building has been finished. I am one of the musicians invited to play at the inauguration party. Would you like to join us?‘