We were really fortunate recently to have the attendance of two Xavante in our Bio-Architecture course, Geovane and Watsuwamri from São Marcos village near Barra do Garças in Mato Grosso. At the end of the course they very kindly demonstrated a Bio-Architecture technique of their own in how to make a palm leaf thatch as used traditionally to roof and wall maloccas. See how!
Step 1. Gather the materials you need. Here because it was a miniature version of the real thing we used local Japanese bamboo for the superstructure and also the supporting frame; for a larger version you would need some flexible sapling timber. For the thatch we collected leaves from an Australian variety of palm but you could use any palm with a small leaf and that is not too wide.
Step 2. Decide the circumference you would like your dome and bend your saplings/bamboo to this shape, securely tying more pieces to add length and to complete the circle. For this example, we selected the longest pieces of bamboo and then started stripping them down in half; this bamboo was a different kind to what the Indians normally use and not quite as flexible when bent but still did the trick.
Step 3. Decide on the height/form you would like the dome to look like and cut the saplings/stripped bamboo to lengths in order to form arches. Bend and secure these to the base ring.
Step 4. Secure all overlapping pieces at the top with wire or twine.
Step 5. Start to secure the secondary pieces of bamboo or timber again with wire or twine; these should be placed horizontally and at intervals no wider than 20cm.
Step 6. Collect you thatching material if you haven’t already done so and, strip off the leaves from the end 20-30cms of the stem. Then, starting at the bottom of the frame, start to weave these pieces of the stem up until the next ring of bamboo/sapling. Work around the bottom for some time and then start the next rung of leaves; this will now be placed between the leaf stems from the rung below and woven into the next upper rung.
Step 7. Continue in this way until the structure is covered thickly.
Step 8. Design your ‘hat’ to close the structure, and now, enjoy this beautiful roof!