THE ART OF BUILDING A "BHONGA"
In April 2000 a group of architects designers & photographers from Israel, came to the village of Tunda Vand in Mundra Taluka, Kutch, Gujarat, to participate in a project of building a "bhonga" - the famous mud hut of the Kutch desert. The idea was to learn the special technology & to renew the bhonga building -- which has proved to be the most suitable to this area. This report is a first-hand account of their experience.
When thousands of cement and bricks building collapsed, the bhongas stayed solid in the earthquake of 26 January this year. The first cement building in the village was a temple, built eight years before, in 1993, after long exertions of the village elders and a few rituals to satisfy the village goddess.
The seeds of project took root when we read the book "Mud, Mirror and Thread" by Judy Frater, an anthropologist who live in Kutch & documented the Rabaris' life for years. 10 years ago Judy started a trust called "KalaRaksha" which helps to preserve the traditional art and craft of villages in the area. Those activities made us think "if you can preserve arts like embroidery or leather work why can't you preserve the art of bhonga building or mud furniture building which are so special to this area and were forgotten for eight years."
After 22 days of building and knowing the people of Kutch we left for Ahmedabad and then returned home. Nine months later we heard about the horrible disaster in Kutch. As we were trying to get information about the people and places we found out that most of the bhongas survived even when the nearby "pukka" houses collapsed.
Now a month and a half later, we believe it is time to think of the future by using more neutral, strong and flexible materials in the new houses of villages in Kutch. Perhaps a combination between traditional methods with modern knowledge and techniques will prove to be the best nature-preserving solution.
The KalaRaksha trust is putting together a project of rehabilitation of six villages of the trust artists. The project combines adoption of villages by outside groups conducting planning research and funding and work done by the villagers in building and continues with art work which will be sold in the U.S.A. and Europe by KalaRaksha to finance the entire project.
The authors are a group of architects and designers from Israel involved (among other things) in projects of sustainable and traditional architecture in Israel and around the world. They have offered their expertise and cooperation to anyone who plans to rebuild villages or houses in the area. They now plan a 40 unit village in the desert of Israel. In the middle of the open area they have built a cultural & community center, constructed by the community itself from mud, wood & palm branches.
They can be contacted at Yuval@architecteam.co.il
slide show of the actual process of building a bhonga can be viewed
at their website http://www.architecteam.co.il
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