FORM AND SYMBOLISM OF SWAHILI ARCHITECTURE

The identity and history of the Swahili-speaking peoples of the East African coast have long been contentious, and
they continue to be so today. This is partly a function of the politics of history within highly diverse and stratified
societies, in which people frequently invoke historical claims regarding foreign origins, social and religious status, or
genealogy to substantiate contemporary political, social, or economic positions. In line with this claim, the author
seeks to document and derive the architectural constants and elements of the buildings in Pate region by
establishing the relationship between symbolism and built form. This would assist in giving identity and building
structures that the people will relate to and have meaning to the future generations. Traditional typologies were
used as descriptive case studies because they were built in the early years by the early inhabitants of the towns
within the Island. Structured observations and interviews were used during the course of this research. Shape and
geometry, materials, scale, dominance, architectural building styles and cultural influence were the chosen
parameters to carry out the field studies on the link between form and symbolism. A detailed analysis of both
traditional and modern building forms was done and similarities and differences were noted. Changes have been
noted in the modern built forms and some are affecting the preservation of culture that is meant to be preserved.
The study recommends the use of design parameters used in the traditional built forms that enhanced cultural and
communal values like the use of spacious courtyards, plasterworks and carvings that had inscriptions about the
religion or meaningful messages, openings and elongated rooms. Privacy levels have to be maintained in the
upcoming structures as moral values are highly recognized in the Islamic culture
 

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