E-30.28.004
"Mrs Göhring in front of her first house [in Fumban]."
Göhring, Martin (Mr)
date early : 1906-01-01.0., date late : 1906-12-31.0.


E-30.29.002
"The first christian chapel in Fumban."
Göhring, Martin (Mr)
date early : 1906-01-01.0., date late : 1906-12-31.0.


E-30.28.012
"Mission outhouse in Fumban."
Göhring, Martin (Mr)
date early : 1906-01-01.0., date late : 1912-12-31.0.

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Architecture in West Africa and Asia:
Missionaries as Builders

The Basel mission was noted for the teaching of building crafts such as carpentry, masonry, and the manufacture of roof shingle. In West Africa, their presence revolutionized architecture, and in Ghana, Andreas Riis, the founder of the Basel Mission enterprise in the early nineteenth century, was rightly given the accolade osiadan, the house builder. Albert Adu Boahen, Ghana’s foremost historian, describes this contribution: “In place of the traditional round mud houses roofed with grass and without windows, Riis and his group of colonists built rectangular houses with windows and doors, roofed with shingles and furnished with beds, chairs and other items of furniture. They also were the first to introduce bricklaying as well as building in stones in many areas.” [A. Boahen, Ghana: Evolution and Change in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (2000), 84.] The initial mission houses and churches were patterned after West African architectural styles, as missionaries waited for resources to build more permanent structures. Thus, Mrs. Göhring’s first house in Fumban in 1906 (E-30.28.004) was in the traditional Bamum style, a round hut with a thatched roof. There is no window and the single door served as an entrance, the source of light and ventilation. The same architectural style is evident in the Cameroonian kingdom of Bafut (E-30.27.039). The first Christian church in Fumban (E-30.29.002), photographed in 1906, represents a blend of Bamum and European architecture: a square building with a thatch or straw roof. Early missionary houses in Bali also display the fusion of African and European influences, and the residence of the missionaries in E-30.25.016 is a large square building (of baked clay?) with a thatched roof with two conical peaks, and a verandah around the house. The mission house built in Fumban, also in 1906, shows a marked shift in architectural style: a concrete, rectangular two-storey building with roof shingles, several doors and windows (E-30.28.012). The mission house in Fumban, photographed between 1911 and 1915 stands on stilts, reflecting medical thinking in vogue in Europe then about how tropical fevers were caused by vapours emanating from the soil (E-30.28.020). Arched doors and windows, stained windows and towers are seen in some of the church buildings
(QE-30.025.0013 and D-30.17.009). African chiefs and wealthy individuals imitated European architecture. The palace of King Nyonga of Bali in
E-30.26.045, photographed between 1911 and 1915, stands in sharp contrast to the palace in 1902 (E-30.26.043). The Asante king’s palace in D-30.63.043, photographed in the 1930s, is a big storey building with several large windows and corrugated iron sheets for the roof. The upper floor sports a porch supported on columns. This building was built in the mid-1920s at Manhyia from a special Asante levy and a colonial government subsidy for the repatriated king. Administrative buildings in colonial Africa, especially in capital cities, sought to insert a bit of Europe in Africa in the effort to create the ideal colonial city. Majestic buildings elicited the appropriate respect from the colonized (see
D-30.01.026 and D-30.01.028). The Chinese and Indians built monuments long before the missionary or colonial encounter. Missionary architecture here may have reflected a fusion of influences rather than the pioneering of a distinctly new style of architecture. Indeed, the churches and schools in the Basel collection on China are less spectacular than public buildings, but here western architectural influences are also visible. Chinese architectural influence is evident in the roof elevations and in the impressive entrances to buildings. A good representation is the American Board Mission Girls’ School built by a Chinese assistant (A-30.09.016).

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