As illustrated above, many have gathered, creating a public spectacle around a large mud pit during the warm weather season. With colourful, hand-sewn flags flying high above, and the smell of food wafting in the air, a choreographed, theatrical, barefoot, clay-mud stomping dance is performed in the pit, in front of an audience, to the rhythm of live drums and acoustic music. The audience is invited to leave their seats and join in, and the dance becomes a production line which leaves many clay-mud bricks, made by hand with local materials, lying there, drying in the sun. After the applause, everyone is mingling. Some performers are soaking their feet in water, others can’t stay out of the mud, while others are serving or being served food and refreshments and learning more about the program and its upcoming activities. Once the bricks are dried, they will be used to build a strong, artistic, functional, architecturally engineered community structure around other similar interactive, festive building events.
Once the structure is completed, the community has gained confidence to engage more people in the same way. Youth have been trained to take leadership roles throughout the process and a festive earthen building “culture” develops that mixes the performing arts with the building sciences through the lens of youth.
The main components of the program
Each community creates a story through the lens of youth with lots of local flavour around the following elements:
A leadership team of youth and adults – with roles and responsibilities.
Festive clay-mud building events and gatherings during school, after school, weekends, holidays, for: schools, general public, workshop participants and holiday activity program participants.
Sponsors, Supporters & Stakeholders. (business, govt, corporate, community)
A completed, architecturally engineered, functional, artistic structure made with local ingredients.
Central to the program is unfired earthen masonry which uses wet mixtures of clay-rich subsoil mud that are sculpted into shape, dried hard in the sun and decorated with various natural paints and finishes. The principles used are part of Australia’s indigenous and non-indigenous heritage; it seems that all people from every continent and climate have historically had a traditional use for unfired earthen masonry and it is currently being revived around the world for its many benefits. We provide a forum to accept and embrace the clay mud from our planet in its pure, natural state, so that we can use it for the greater good."
Ëarthlings become earthed or grounded by the earth in the ground of our planet Earth."
The program’s success depends upon the following components working together:
Site hosts. The organization / individuals that own or manage the land upon which the events take place, and the structure is built, which include: Schools, Non Profit Organizations, Botanic Gardens, Recreational Parks, Community Gardens, and private property. They become the recipients of the new structure and its caretaker, responsible for sharing it with the community, and maintaining its upkeep. The site hosts can also function as the program managers (see below).
Program Managers: The organisation, department or individual that initiates the program, brings together the other stakeholders, and takes responsibilities for all of the program’s outcomes. This includes youth organisations, schools, and community groups.
Leadership team: The group of youth and youth mentors who are trained in all aspects of the program to engage the community and make it a success. They document their process so that it can be replicated by others in their community in future subsequent years.
Sponsors: Any organization, department, business, corporation or individual that contributes to the success of the program through funding and/or providing in-kind donations of materials or other services.
Guests: The groups and individuals who participate in the program’s events- including students who attend school field trips or incursions and or the general public who attend the weekend events and summer activities.
Contributors: professional, volunteer or otherwise. Eg. Drummers, musicians, choreographer, actors, writers, directors, tradesmen, architect, engineer, builder, community organiser, fundraiser.
Strengths of the program
A unique formula with unique appeal. Wet clay mud helps blur the lines between: work and play, art and science, education and community service, dirty and clean, weird and wonderful. Wet clay and skin have a unique relationship and when combined with parental approval, warm weather, drums, music, choreography, audiences, food and building activities for the whole family, it becomes magical.
Able to attract funding from a variety of funding sources. These include funding for building and infrastructure, arts, youth, entertainment, education, community engagement, events.
“More-the-merrier” approach. Events and gatherings can easily be scaled to accommodate large numbers of participants which strengthens community and lowers per-participant costs. There are different activities to suit all types and ages including: audience, bare foot clay-mud mixing , building & sculpting, percussion, music and food.
Youth participation - Youth leadership.Youth of all ages are engaged in the processes and each project draws upon the unique flavour that local youth bring to the table. The leadership team is trained to replicate the program for continuity.The "Youth Advantage" is a term we use to describe how and why youth and youth dynamics are uniquely valued in a project, outside of what adults can contribute.
A range of experiences.Building a permanent, functional, artistic structure from scratch builds momentum with excuses for celebration along the way. Participation can range from one-time experiences to long-term commitments in the beginning, middle or end, or over the life of the project. At each event and each project there are both muddy and non muddy roles. With the end of each building project comes the beginning of the next season and campaign. The goal is a continuous festive earthen masonry culture that takes advantage of each season in a unique way. In the cooler weather the events emphasise cooking, the performance aspects, planning and building small scale architectural models. In the warmer weather there is more outdoor building and events with wet mud and water.
Bridging community. We create threads that weave between schooltime, and the wider community outside of school time. This brings people together and strengthens community. High school students teach primary school students and pre school students and parents are invited to join in too. Seniors, community groups, invidividual volunteers, performing artists and families all have their place within a project. Project participation can take place at a range of different sites, both during school, after school, during holidays and weekends.
Meaningful, educational outcomes. A range of topics can be explored through the lenses of youth leadership, community, shelter and sustainability. Topics include: history, world cultures, geography, geology, architecture, natural resources, fossil fuels, pollution, music, art, health, documentation, writing, drama and communication. Teachers notes are available upon request.
Materials used and commitment to sustainability.Care is taken to use only the cleanest, purest ingredients- harvested as locally as possible, including:-Stone to build the foundation – approximately 5-10% by weight.-Virgin, clay-rich subsoil, sand and fibrous waste material such as grass straw, to build the walls, furniture and plaster –approximately 85% by weight.-Wood to build the roof frame- approximately 5-10% and some kind of cover to be decided.-Untreated linseed oil, flour, milk, natural pigments to make paint –less than 1%.-Other – less than 1%.
Many positive memories of the festive, clay-mud themed gatherings.
A permanent, durable, artistic, structure made by many hands, with local ingredients and simple tools, for all to enjoy for many years ahead.
A leadership team with an understanding of unfired earthen masonry basics and skills in each of the major elements of shelter–placement, foundation, load bearing walls, openings (doors, windows, arches) furniture, appliances, and roof; also the artistic elements of sculpting shapes and applying plaster finishes and natural clay and milk based paints.
Other Possible outcomes:
Developing and applying their new found skills and the program with local flavor.
An annual festive earthen building event run by program graduates.
An on-going building project run by graduates.
A yearly family summer activities camp.
Connections made with the global natural building community.
Connections made with people from indigenous communities that have an ancient legacy of creating shelter (and providing themselves with other basic needs) in a unique way with little environmental impact and with autonomy from global financial systems.
Connections made with other well-known continuously inhabited, unfired earthen masonry community settlements including: the 1,000 year old Native American adobe pueblo community in Taos New Mexico, USA, the 2,000 year old mud brick village-city community of Djenne in Mali Africa, the 700 year old “cob” home communities of Devon in the United Kingdom, the 1,000 year old Arabian mud brick skyscraper city community of Shibam in Yemen, the 800 year old rammed earth Fujian Tulou community of China and more.