Mali Interpretive Sites

illages in Pays Dogon are a fascinating assemblage of sculptural forms in adobe, wood, and stone set against a backdrop of geological grandeur. This eco-tourism site installation project in Mali draws inspiration from the people and the place to highlight the history, traditions, and cultural landmarks of 16 communities built into this grand escarpment in West Africa. Our team worked with leaders in each village to select a location for site sensitive interpretive signage to be developed in a way that would serve both the visitors and the community.

In a collaborative site selection process, primary consideration was given to natural gathering places, points of interest, and converging paths between villages. Sites were chosen for the ready access to shade in the form of mature trees and oriented toward a vista. The team developed a design guide which was used by a local architect and builder who oversaw local labor using local materials. Each site design is unique, responding to the immediate surroundings and the hot, dry climate. Forms are elemental and easy to build, drawing inspiration from the shape of an adobe granary in one place or the arc of the revered caiman lying in the grass.

In the short space of a few months this project went from an idea to a reality – field research in the summer, designs delivered in the fall, and half the site installations complete or underway by the end of the year. The team worked closely with specialists from the US Forest Service and Solimar International with funding from USAID Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance initiative.