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Made with Matriarchs: Developing Heritage-Inspired Architecture with the Karamojong

In the rural northeast of Uganda, the ethnic Karamojong are experiencing unprecedented pressures to change their ways of life. As semi-nomadic pastoralists, these peoples are dependent on the health of their herds which is an extension of the health of their land. As land health has deteriorated due to climate change, overgrazing and lack of mobility there are increasing interventions by outside actors seeking to improve public health while making recurring calls to transform Karamojong culture towards sedentism and farming. While appropriate in select cases, this overwhelming call towards cultural transformation undermines the traditional ways of life and is at odds with the capabilities of the land.
This thesis proposes a heritage-based architectural response to mitigate the increasingly harmful effects of globalization upon the traditionally semi-nomadic societies of northern Uganda. Alternative futures are imagined by reconsidering the role of the architect in relation to the pre-colonial keepers of the built environment; the matriarchs. In this alternative arrangement, architects work with Matriarchs to develop adaptations to the built environment to ensure a viable, heritage-inspired future. Speculative adaptations must include large structures to accommodate programmatic needs of schools, government offices and communal gatherings. Re-use strategies must be employed to reduce collecting loads on the environment. Strategic integration of modern technology will improve public health outcomes and reduce foreign-led interventions. Most importantly, technical innovations must be made to improve the legitimacy and durability of traditional materials to promote their future use in support of a semi-nomadic way of life.








Ethan Walker

Ethan Walker is a designer currently based in Kampala, Uganda set to graduate from the thesis track of LTU in the spring of ’23. The focus of his thesis research is an outgrowth of his professional experience living and working in Uganda where ongoing questions around agency, authorship and the role of the professional architect play an impactful role in evaluating the success of a project.

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