Written by Sean Connolly
Though this steamy, low-lying region might seem an unlikely architectural Mecca, Casamance has given birth to a building unlike any other in Africa, known as the case à impluvium. Shaped like a doughnut, cases à impluvium have an inward-sloping thatched roof not unlike a giant funnel, opening on to a central courtyard which can range from as small as a metre to more than a dozen metres wide. Here you’ll usually find a small garden and a set of basins set up to make the most of the prodigious rainstorms that buff et the region and collect the rainwater funneled in off the roof. It’s an elegant and quite fetching solution to the region’s water needs, and the interiors tend to be cool and quite pleasant – especially the ones with a garden inside. The
magnificent double case à impluvium at the Alliance Franco-Sénégalaise is undoubtedly the region’s fi nest, while the oldest is in Enampore, and the arch-traditional village of Eloubaline is dominated by them. Many have been set up as campements, and you can spend a night in a case à impluvium in more than a half-dozen villages around Casamance.
The other of Casamance’s two architectural treasures and another singularity in the region is the case à étage. Made exclusively from banco mud, wood and other local materials, these two-storey houses may not exactly be skyscrapers, but getting inside one to see the thick, rounded banco pillars, open courtyards, and wood beam ceilings will give you an appreciation for the craftsmanship that went into their construction and, in va land of one-storey dwellings, the inspiration required to build them in the first place. Though they’re not as common as the cases à impluvium, there are some excellent examples to be seen in Affi niam and Mlomp, and you can get a good night’s sleep on the fi rst fl oor at either of the two case à étage hotelsin Oussouye.