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i-ACT20 Day 12: Pillars of Touloum

The Village Women Built

By Gabriel Stauring


Touloum is visually striking. When Darfuri refugees were first brought to this area for what was supposed to be a temporary stay, they were given tents for homes.  But, tents are actually very temporary and cannot withstand years of the rough environment of the Chad-Sudan border.

As tents began to disintegrate and life in these camps became more permanent, the refugee women began to do what they do best, take care of their families.  They built what is, in effect, a large village for 30,000 people right from the ground.

The sand around Touloum is dark and rich to the eye. The women make walls and fences from mud made from this sand, and the results are beautiful and functional.  They adorn the outside walls with paint, carvings, or different color mud.  They also add bottles, cans, and other objects for effect.

When entering a home, it’s like a maze; the walls twist and turn, and I got lost more than once, when going around taking pictures.  I’d have to call out, “Oumda, where are you?”

The women also collect the little wood and grass that is used for some of the roofs, but the great majority of this village is made from mud.  It almost feels like you’ll run into Georgia O’Keeffe at any time, the great artist that lived in and painted the New Mexico landscape, including the adobe homes that look so much like Touloum homes.

Peace, Gabriel

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