Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tembe 1

A while ago I wrote about the tembe, a type of building found in some parts of southern and eastern Africa during the Colonial period. It served as a fortified place of safety to which people could retreat with their livestock when under attack from hostiles. They were used by both tribal peoples and the Arab slavers who preyed upon them. Henry Morton Stanley also made use of them during his adventures, and in his memoirs recounted how effective they could be if stoutly defended.

In function the tembe had the same role as the pele towers of the English-Scottish Border country. The walls were certainly thick enough to withstand rifle and musket fire. How they would've borne up under artillery fire is open to conjecture.

The basic plan was square, with thick outer walls constructed of mud brick or clay and pierced for weapons. The interior had several rooms set around the perimeter, all connecting to each other in sequence. Should the main gate be breached each room could be barricaded to serve as a mini-fort, requiring the attacker to clear each in turn. Although the rooms were roofed with thatch the central courtyard was open to the sky and served as the animal pen. The plan below gives the general idea. I decided to use foamcore for constructing my model since it's versatile and easy to work with. The ground area is eight inches square and the wall height a little under two inches. I cut four interior walls from 3/16th inch foamcore and three long and two shorter exterior walls from 1/2 inch. A cutting mat and metal ruler is practically vital for this work. The brass laboratory ruler shown below was a real find in a local charity shop, a bargain for just 25 cents!

The markings on the large square show where the walls will go. I marked doors and cross-bracing slots on the interior walls then cut them out, as shown below. The two lower walls will slide down on the upper walls forming a tic-tac-toe style cross.

The next picture shows the interior walls glued using ordinary white craft adhesive...

...and glued into place on the floor.

Next stage will be to pierce the outer walls for the firing slits and attach them to the base.

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